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History > 2012 > USA > Violence (I)



Troubled Past for Suspect

in Fatal Subway Push


December 30, 2012
The New York Times


Long before Erika Menendez was charged with pushing a stranger to his death under an oncoming train at a Queens elevated station, she had years of contact with New York City’s mental health and law enforcement establishments. She was treated by the psychiatric staffs of at least two city hospitals, and caseworkers visited her family home in Queens to provide further help. She was also arrested at least three times, according to the police, twice after violent confrontations.

Ms. Menendez’s years of inner and outer turmoil culminated in the deadly assault on an unsuspecting man who was waiting for a train on Thursday. Beyond stirring fear among riders on crowded platforms across the city, the attack also raised new questions about the safeguards in a patchwork private and public mental health system that is supposed to allow mentally ill people to live as freely as possible in the community while protecting them and the public.

A similar attack more than a decade ago led to a law aimed at forcing mentally ill people with a history of violence to undergo treatment, but it is widely acknowledged to cover only a small portion of those who need help.

D. J. Jaffe, the executive director of the Mental Illness Policy Organization, an advocacy group, said that thousands of troubled individuals with violent histories were released from mental health facilities, and that beyond requiring that they have a home to go to and an outpatient care plan in place, there was little oversight of their activities.

“No one monitors if they are taking their medication,” Mr. Jaffe said. “Or follows up to see if they are a danger to themselves or others.”

The case of Ms. Menendez, 31, puts renewed attention on a mental health system that is a loose amalgam of hospitals, supported housing, shelters and other advocacy and support groups, in which mentally ill people often bounce from one to the other and ultimately fall through the cracks. It is not known precisely where she fit in.

City officials said it would be misleading to conclude that anyone was at fault in her treatment.

“People get well and then they get sick again,” Ana Marengo, a spokeswoman for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs Bellevue and Elmhurst Hospital Centers, said Sunday. Ms. Menendez had been treated at both hospitals, according to friends and law enforcement officials.

Ms. Marengo declined to confirm or deny whether Ms. Menendez had been treated at either hospital, citing confidentiality rules, but said that patients who were treated at city hospitals often were discharged into the care of outpatient mental health providers.

There were ample warnings over the years concerning Ms. Menendez.

In 2003, according to the police, she attacked another stranger, Daniel Conlisk, a retired firefighter, as he took out his garbage in Queens.

“I was covered with blood,” Mr. Conlisk recalled on Sunday. “She was screaming the whole time.”

Just two months earlier, Ms. Menendez was accused of hitting and scratching another man in Queens. She was also arrested on cocaine possession charges the same year.

Since then, according to friends and people familiar with her record, she has been cared for at mental health facilities in Manhattan and Queens as her problems worsened.

Between 2005 and February this year, the police responded five times to calls from relatives reporting difficulties in dealing with Ms. Menendez, reportedly stemming from her failure to take certain medication, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly about her medical history. In one of these instances, in 2010, she threw a radio at one of the responding officers, the official said.

“She has been in and out of institutions,” another law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Within the past year, she was discharged from Bellevue, according to a person with knowledge of her medical history.

An attendant at the psychiatric ward at Elmhurst Hospital Center declined to go into detail about Ms. Menendez’s treatment there, but said that “all I can tell you is we know her very well.”

Ms. Menendez is being charged with murder as a hate crime and, if convicted, faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

For prosecutors, the decision to charge her with a hate crime was based on statements she gave to the police after her arrest on Saturday, when she claimed she attacked the victim, Sunando Sen, 46, because she hated Muslims and Hindus. Mr. Sen was born in India and, according to a roommate, was raised Hindu.

A family friend who identified himself only as Mike said Ms. Menendez was not a racist. But he acknowledged her troubled mental history and calls to the police regarding her behavior. He said she was supposed to be monitored as part of an outpatient program for the mentally ill run by Elmhurst.

“We had someone come to the house, spend six minutes, asked how she was doing, giving medication,” he said by telephone. “I used to tell them, ‘Listen, she’s not home.’ And then they would come back the next week. They’d leave you the medication and come back in the next week.”

The exact nature of what Ms. Menendez was being treated for could not be learned. It was also unclear if she was currently on medication or had lapsed in her treatment.

When she was arraigned on Saturday night, the judge ordered that she be held without bail and undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The attack, which occurred at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside, was the second time in less than a month that a commuter was pushed to his death at a New York City subway station.

In the first case, Ki-Suck Han, 58, of Elmhurst, Queens, died under the Q train at the 49th Street and Seventh Avenue station on Dec. 3. Naeem Davis, 30, was charged with second-degree murder in that case.

Both attacks are reminiscent of two strikingly similar subway attacks that occurred in 1999 and galvanized the city.

In the attack with the most lasting effect, Andrew Goldstein pushed Kendra Webdale, 32, into the path of an N train at the 23rd Street station that January, killing her.

The death of Ms. Webdale, a journalist and photographer who had moved to the city from Buffalo, unnerved New Yorkers who had come to think of their city as the safest it had been in years.

Mr. Goldstein was convicted of second-degree murder, a decision that was overturned. But he ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Although he stopped taking medication for schizophrenia, the insanity defense did not convince a jury.

Yet in the outrage after Ms. Webdale’s death, the State Legislature passed Kendra’s Law, which allows judges to order closely supervised outpatient treatment for mentally ill patients who had a history of refusing to take their medication and who had been put in jail or hospitalized repeatedly or become violent.

The latest attacks show the flaws in the system, according to some advocates for the mentally ill.

“If you are involuntarily committed, once you are no longer dangerous, you are discharged,” Mr. Jaffe said.

Ms. Menendez often stayed in Rego Park, Queens, with her mother and stepfather in their 14-story apartment building. That was the address where family friends said she was visited by outpatient mental health workers from Elmhurst hospital.

When she was arrested in 2003, she was staying in Ridgewood, Queens.

In an interview, Mr. Conlisk, now 65, said he had never seen her before the confrontation. He said she approached him from behind, screaming and accusing him of sleeping with her mother.

“She goes into a boxer’s stance, and then she punches my face,” he said. He pressed charges and had a restraining order against her for a year, he added, but never saw her again.

“I think I would have been dead if she had a weapon,” he said.


Reporting was contributed by Daniel Krieger, Michael Schwirtz, Julie Turkewitz

and Benjamin Weiser.

    Troubled Past for Suspect in Fatal Subway Push, NYT, 30.12.2012,






Headmistress, Jilted Lover, Killer,

Then a Force for Good in Jail


December 28, 2012
The New York Times


Jean S. Harris, the private-school headmistress whose 1981 trial for the murder of a prominent Scarsdale, N.Y., physician galvanized a nation with its story of vengeance by a woman scorned, died on Sunday at an assisted-living center in New Haven. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed by her son James.

For more than a year — from her arrest on March 10, 1980, to her sentencing for second-degree murder on March 20, 1981 — Mrs. Harris’s case was front-page news.

The trial provided the fascination of a love triangle involving the cultivated headmistress of an exclusive girls’ school, a wealthy cardiologist whose book, “The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet,” had been a best seller, and an attractive younger rival for his affection. If Mrs. Harris was to be believed, it was the story of an attempted suicide by a jilted woman that turned into the unintentional shooting of the man who had rejected her.

But there was an underlying social debate that drew commentary from writers, sociologists and feminists and antifeminists alike. Mrs. Harris’s passionate defenders saw her plight as epitomizing the fragile position of an aging but fiercely independent woman who, because of limited options, was dependent on a man who mistreated her. Her detractors, who were just as ardent, suggested that such reasoning made it seem that it was the physician, Dr. Herman Tarnower, who was on trial.

Mrs. Harris was sentenced to 15 years to life, and spent 12 of those years at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, N.Y. But she managed to salvage that seemingly wasted period through a remarkable prison life. She counseled fellow female prisoners on how to take care of their children, and she set up a center where infants born to inmates can spend a year near their mothers. Then, after her release in 1993 following a grant of clemency by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, she set up a foundation that raised millions of dollars for scholarships for children of women in prison in New York State.

She also lectured about her often incongruous experiences with inmates.

“They looked at me as a rich white woman, even though some of the call girls earned six times what I did as a headmistress,” she told an interviewer.

At the center of the murder case was Jean Struven Harris, a slight, blue-eyed blonde, then 56, who was a product of comfortable suburban homes and a Smith College education. Headstrong, articulate and ambitious, she was the headmistress of the Madeira School, a boarding school for affluent girls on a sprawling wooded campus in Virginia.

At 10:56 on the night of March 10, 1980, the White Plains police received a telephone call from Dr. Tarnower’s secluded glass-and-brick house on a 6.8-acre estate in Purchase, N.Y. Lying in an upstairs bedroom dying of four bullet wounds was Dr. Tarnower, the 69-year-old founder of the Scarsdale Medical Group, whose diet book had sold three million copies.

When the police arrived at the driveway, they came across Mrs. Harris, wearing tan slacks and a mink jacket, driving away. She contended that she was going to look for a phone booth to call the police. But officers found a .32-caliber gun in the glove compartment, and a detective later testified that she told him: “I did it. ... I’ve been through so much hell with him. He slept with every woman he could.”

Dr. Tarnower and Mrs. Harris, the divorced mother of two grown sons and 13 years his junior, had been lovers for 14 years. But in the years before the shooting, the doctor had begun appearing at dinner parties and taking vacations with his office assistant, Lynne Tryforos, a divorced woman who was then 37. For years Dr. Tarnower, a lifelong bachelor, had refused to marry Mrs. Harris. Now, as a wealthy man, he could dally with the even younger Mrs. Tryforos.

In her eight days on the witness stand, Mrs. Harris was able to describe her betrayal with an arch wit that charmed the courtroom. She recalled how she once discovered a birthday greeting from Mrs. Tryforos to Dr. Tarnower in a small advertisement on the front page of The New York Times, and how she responded: “Herman, why don’t you use the Goodyear blimp next time? I think it’s available.”

She testified that by March 1980, she had decided to commit suicide and had bought the revolver. She drove from Virginia to Dr. Tarnower’s place, she said, so she could have a few quiet moments with him before she shot herself “at the side of the pond where there were daffodils in the spring.”

When she went upstairs, she testified, she found him in his pajamas asleep in his bedroom. She noticed Mrs. Tryforos’s negligee, hair curlers and jewelry and fell into a rage, she said, deciding to shoot herself right there.

When she drew the revolver out of her pocketbook, she testified, Dr. Tarnower tried to stop her by pushing her hand down, but the gun fired. They struggled again, and the gun went off a second time.

Mrs. Harris, however, could not account for two of the bullets. On Feb. 24, 1981, after eight days of deliberation, the jury of four men and eight women decided that she had murdered the doctor.

The trial drew more than 100 reporters from around the country. The writer Shana Alexander and the critic Diana Trilling both wrote popular books about Mrs. Harris’s experience. Mrs. Trilling compared Mrs. Harris to Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary; Mrs. Harris, she said, was “material asking to be written but with no one to write her.” Some feminists rationalized Mrs. Harris’s action as legitimate revenge, although Betty Friedan, describing Mrs. Harris as a “pathetic masochist,” denied that there were any feminist issues involved in the trial.

Mrs. Harris took the guilty verdict calmly, but at her sentencing a month later, she was trembling with defiance.

“I did not murder Dr. Tarnower; I loved him very much,” she told the judge. “No one in the world feels his loss more than I do. I’m not guilty.”

At Bedford Hills, she held various jobs. She organized the prison library, tutored inmates for the state’s high school equivalency examinations and served as a teacher’s aide in the prison’s nursery.

“I was lucky that I could find something useful to do,” she told The Times in a 1993 interview. “I didn’t twiddle my thumbs. Really, I got up every morning and went to school and taught. I know it was useful, and I was lucky to have that job.”

She wrote an article for New York magazine on prison conditions, describing a humiliating search of her body by a guard. In 1986, she wrote “Stranger in Two Worlds,” offering her account of the Tarnower relationship as well as a chronicle of prison life.

Almost 70 years old when she got out in 1993, she tried to live out of the limelight, despite the occasional made-for-TV movie or book about the case (Ellen Burstyn played Mrs. Harris in a 1981 movie, and Annette Bening played her in 2005). She devoted herself to gardening outside her cabin on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire, writing and taking walks with her golden retriever, Lainey, who was named after a nun who directed the prison’s children center.

Jean Witte Struven was born in Chicago on April 27, 1923, and grew up in the fashionable Cleveland suburbs of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. Her father, Albert Struven, was a civil engineer who became vice president of a construction company that built oil refineries and steel plants around the world. She was educated at the Cleveland area’s leading private school and majored in economics at Smith College. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude in 1945. She went on to receive a master’s in education at Wayne State University.

Soon after leaving Smith, she married James Harris, the son of a middle-level chemicals executive from Detroit. She once told an interviewer that she had agreed to marry him largely to defy her father, who did not like him.

The couple settled in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and Mrs. Harris took a job teaching at a private school where some members of the Ford family sent their children. She gained a measure of social prestige, yet Mr. Harris’s career in a carburetor company languished. Their marriage foundered, and in 1964, she filed for divorce. Mr. Harris died in 1977.

Besides her son James, she is survived by another son, David; a sister, Mary Lynch; a brother, Robert Struven; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Hoping to put her sons through college, she took a higher-paying job as the director of the middle school of the Springside School, a girls’ academy outside Philadelphia. It was in that position that she met Dr. Tarnower at a dinner party. Both had made trips to the Soviet Union in recent years, and they compared notes.

Dr. Tarnower, the son of a hat manufacturer, was self-assured, urbane and witty. He was a hunter and a sports fisherman, and on his travels he collected Buddhas. He wooed her with roses and dances at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. In the first year of their courtship, he gave her an engagement ring and proposed marriage. But Mrs. Harris hesitated, and soon he told her that he could not go through with the marriage.

But the romance continued. Early in 1972, Mrs. Harris became the headmistress of the Thomas School in Rowayton, Conn., and bought a house in Mahopac, N.Y., a 45-minute drive from Dr. Tarnower’s house. The Thomas School closed in 1975, and a year and a half later the position at the Madeira School opened up.

The geographic distance between them appeared to place strains on their relationship. Dr. Tarnower began dating Mrs. Tryforos while continuing with Mrs. Harris. In her three years at the Madeira School, Mrs. Harris was by most accounts a capable administrator and a strict disciplinarian who, among other actions, barred students from the bars in the Georgetown section of Washington. Shortly before the murder, her position at the school was imperiled by what some thought was her imprudence in suspending four student leaders after marijuana seeds and pipes were found in their dormitory.

Mrs. Harris grew weary of such conflict, and a letter of resignation was among the notes she wrote shortly before leaving for Dr. Tarnower’s house.

    Headmistress, Jilted Lover, Killer, Then a Force for Good in Jail, NYT, 28.12.2012,






Woman Sought

After 2nd Fatal Shove Onto Subway Tracks This Month


December 28, 2012
The New York Times


Like so many busy New Yorkers in a hurry to get where they have to go, Sunando Sen peered out over the tracks on an elevated subway stop in Queens on Thursday evening, anxiously awaiting the next train.

What he did not see, the authorities said, was a woman approaching from behind who had been sitting on a bench and who had been heard mumbling to herself. Before Mr. Sen could react, the woman pushed him into the path of a No. 7 train roaring into the 40th Street-Lowery Street subway station in Sunnyside. Mr. Sen was crushed under the train.

As onlookers screamed, the woman fled the station down two flights of stairs. Her image was captured by a security camera as she ran down Queens Boulevard, casting a wary glance over her shoulder. She remained at large on Friday.

The seemingly unprovoked attack, the second time this month that a man was thrown to his death on the subway tracks, stirred some of the deepest fears of New Yorkers.

“When a murder happens in New York, it can often be dismissed as being in someone else’s backyard,” said Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group. “The subway is everyone’s backyard.”

The police identified the victim as Mr. Sen of Queens, a 46-year-old immigrant who had been raised in India and who, after years of toil, had finally saved enough money to open a small copying business this year on the Upper West Side.

Ar Suman, one of four roommates who shared a small first-floor apartment with Mr. Sen in Elmhurst, said he was driving a client upstate when another roommate called and told him what had happened. Hoping that the information was wrong, Mr. Suman raced back to the city, only to find that there was nothing he could do — Mr. Sen was dead.

“He was a very educated person and quite nice,” Mr. Suman said. “It is unbelievable. He never had a problem with anyone.”

Mr. Suman said Mr. Sen was proud when he had saved enough money to open the business, New Amsterdam Copy.

Since the shop opened, he had rarely taken a day off, Mr. Suman said.

“I asked him why do you work seven days a week?” Mr. Suman said. “He told me, ‘I cannot hire someone because business is not good.’ ”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Friday that according to witnesses’ accounts, there was no contact on the platform between the attacker and the victim immediately before the fatal shove. He said Mr. Sen was looking out over the tracks when his attacker approached him.

The attack occurred so quickly, with the train already barreling into the station, that the man had little time to react and bystanders had no time to try to help, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.

Mr. Sen was hit by the first car and his body was pinned under the second car before the 11-car train came to a stop.

Investigators released a grainy black-and-white video overnight showing a person they identified as the attacker fleeing the station and running along Queens Boulevard. She was described by the police as Hispanic, 5 feet 5 inches tall, in her early 20s and heavyset. She was reported to be wearing a blue, white and gray ski jacket and Nike sneakers — gray on top, red on bottom.

The subway station was closed overnight as officers from the Emergency Services Unit used specialized inflatable bags to lift the train and recover the victim’s remains. The No. 7 line had resumed normal service by the morning rush.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that such attacks were exceedingly rare, but that statistics did not diminish the tragedy for the families of the victims.

“You can say it’s only two out of the three or four million people who ride the subway every day, but two is two too many,” he told reporters.

“I don’t know that there is a way to prevent things,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “There is always going to be somebody, a deranged person.”

He added: “We do live in a world where our subway platforms are open, and that’s not going to change.”

In the other subway-pushing case this month, Ki-Suck Han, 58, who also lived in Elmhurst, died under the Q train at the 49th Street and Seventh Avenue station on Dec. 3. Naeem Davis, 30, has been charged with second-degree murder in that case. A lawyer for Mr. Davis said his client had been trying to push Mr. Han away after an altercation.

For the millions of commuters who travel on New York City’s subway trains every day, the thought of being thrown onto the tracks is a fleeting fear at most. But each time there is an attack, people tend to stand a little farther from the tracks, at least for a while. That was especially true after the attack on Mr. Han, when The New York Post published a front-page photo of him on the tracks moments before his death.

In 1999, two attacks in which mentally ill people pushed unsuspecting victims into the path of oncoming subway trains, one fatally, led to legislation giving families the right to demand court-ordered outpatient psychiatric treatment for their relatives. Known as Kendra’s Law, it permits state judges to order closely monitored outpatient treatment for seriously mentally ill people who have records of failing to take medication, and who have frequently been hospitalized or jailed or have exhibited violent behavior.

The law was named for Kendra Webdale, 32, who was pushed to her death by a young man, Andrew Goldstein, who had stopped taking medication he had been prescribed for schizophrenia.

Mr. Sen’s roommates could not understand what might have led to the fatal encounter on Thursday.

Mr. Suman said that as far as he knew, Mr. Sen did little more than work and come home. Both his parents were dead, they said, and he was not married and had no children.

Mr. Sen suffered a heart attack about nine months ago, Mr. Suman said, but did not slow down. The night stand in Mr. Sen’s bedroom had many bottles of prescription medicine. Across the room on his desk was a pile of medical bills.

His roommates said he liked watching funny clips on YouTube to unwind, enjoyed a cup of tea and would relax listening to classical Indian music.

“This guy is so quiet, so gentle, so nice,” said M. D. Khan, a taxi driver who also lives in the apartment. “It’s so broken, my heart.”


Michael M. Grynbaum and Wendy Ruderman contributed reporting.

    Woman Sought After 2nd Fatal Shove Onto Subway Tracks This Month, NYT, 28.2.1012,






414 Homicides in ’12 Is a Record Low for New York City


December 28, 2012
The New York Times


Murders in New York have dropped to their lowest level in over 40 years, city officials announced on Friday, even as overall crimes increased slightly because of a rise in thefts — a phenomenon based solely on robberies of iPhones and other Apple devices.

There were 414 recorded homicides so far in 2012, compared with 515 for the same period in 2011, city officials said. That is a striking decline from murder totals in the low-2,000s that were common in the early 1990s, and is also below the record low: 471, set in 2009.

“The essence of civilization is that you can walk down the street without having to look over your shoulder,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg acclaimed the accomplishment during a graduation ceremony for more than 1,000 new police officers at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He attributed the low murder rate to the department’s controversial practice of “stop, question and frisk,” in which people are stopped on the street and questioned by officers, and aggressive hot-spot policing, in which officers are deployed to areas with crime spikes. Shootings are also down for the year so far. The number of murders is the lowest since 1963, when improvements in the recording of data were made.

The Police Department said thefts of Apple products had risen by 3,890, which was more than the overall increase in “major crimes.”

In the last two decades, trumpeting declines in crime trends has become an annual end-of-the-year event, even when the numbers inched up.

But figures alone do not tell the whole story, and several homicides this year stood out as particularly disturbing, given the age of the victims and the manner of death. Detectives described the stabbing deaths of two children at the hands of their nanny inside the bathroom of their Manhattan apartment in October as among the most horrific crimes they could recall.

“I think those images get embedded in the minds of detectives more than other crime scenes,” said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, the union that represents detectives, adding, “It certainly makes you rethink the things that you take for granted, which is the safety of children.”

So far this year, the police said, 20 children — ages 9 and younger — were murdered, up from 16 in 2011. Among the victims was a 4-year-old boy, Lloyd Morgan Jr., who was shot in the head on a Bronx playground during a basketball tournament.

There were also several anomalies in the 2012 homicide tally, including a serial killer who murdered three shopkeepers in Brooklyn.

Perhaps the most well-known murder put on the books in 2012 actually may have occurred in 1979. That is when Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy, disappeared as he walked to a bus stop in SoHo. For more than three decades, Etan was officially listed as “missing.” When an arrest was made this year and the suspect, Pedro Hernandez, was charged with murder, the haunting crime was added to the 2012 homicide tally.

This has been a leap year. And indeed, on Feb. 29, a Bronx teenager was fatally stabbed.

In one of several recent high-profile killings, a man was shot outside the Empire State Building by an ex-colleague.

But overall killings have dropped to such a low level that more New Yorkers now commit suicide than are the victims of homicides. About 475 New Yorkers kill themselves each year, according to the city’s health department.

Mr. Bloomberg praised Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, saying the 19 percent drop in homicides compared with 2011 was achieved despite a shrinking police force and an increasing population. Mr. Kelly said he believed that relatively new policing strategies, including adding more police officers dedicated to curbing domestic violence, and monitoring social media to thwart gang-related murders, were working.

“We’re preventing crimes before someone is killed and before someone else has to go to prison,” the commissioner said.

Six precincts recorded no murders as of Friday afternoon: The 7th on the Lower East Side; the 19th on the Upper East Side; the 112th in the Forest Hills and Rego Park neighborhoods of Queens; the 94th in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; the 76th in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; and Central Park, according to the police.

Of the 414 murders, 14 deaths from previous years were counted as homicides for the first time, like in the Patz case. In many of these cases, victims of long-ago shootings died of sepsis in hospitals, the police said.

Of the 400 murders in 2012, 223 were gunshot victims, 84 victims were stabbed to death, 43 died of blunt trauma and 11 died of asphyxiation. The majority of the 400 homicides occurred on a Saturday, followed by early Sunday morning. Most occurred at 2 a.m. People were more likely to be killed outside than in. Nearly 70 percent of the victims had prior criminal arrests, the police said.

Domestic-related homicides dropped to 68, from 94 in 2011.

The likelihood of being killed by a stranger was slight. The vast majority of the homicides, Mr. Kelly said, grew out of “disputes” between a victim and killer who knew each other.

The series of Apple-product thefts has been challenging the police for several years, but this is the first time they have been seen as significantly skewing the crime statistics. “If you just took away the jump in Apple, we’d be down for the year,” Mr. Bloomberg’s press secretary, Marc La Vorgna, said.

Mr. Kelly said the thefts of non-Apple devices had declined.


Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.

    414 Homicides in ’12 Is a Record Low for New York City, NYT, 28.12.2012,






Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City


December 16, 2012
The New York Times



HOURS AFTER SUNSET, the cars pulled up, one after another, bringing dozens of teenagers from several nearby high schools to an end-of-summer party in August in a neighborhood here just off the main drag.

For some of the teenagers, it would be one last big night out before they left this decaying steel town, bound for college.

For others, it was a way to cap off a summer of socializing before school started in less than two weeks. For the lucky ones on the Steubenville High School football team, it would be the start of another season of possible glory as stars in this football-crazy county.

Some in the crowd, which would grow to close to 50 people, arrived with beer. Those who did not were met by cases of it and a makeshift bar of vodka, rum and whiskey, all for the taking, no identification needed. In a matter of no time, many of the partygoers — many of them were high school athletes — were imbibing from red plastic cups inside the home of a volunteer football coach at Steubenville High at what would be the first of several parties that night.

“Huge party!!! Banger!!!!” Trent Mays, a sophomore quarterback on Steubenville’s team, posted on Twitter, referring to one of the bashes that evening.

By sunrise, though, some people in and around Steubenville had gotten word that the night of fun on Aug. 11 might have taken a grim turn, and that members of the Steubenville High football team might have been involved. Twitter posts, videos and photographs circulated by some who attended the nightlong set of parties suggested that an unconscious girl had been sexually assaulted over several hours while others watched. She even might have been urinated on.

In one photograph posted on Instagram by a Steubenville High football player, the girl, who was from across the Ohio River in Weirton, W.Va., is shown looking unresponsive as two boys carry her by her wrists and ankles. Twitter users wrote the words “rape” and “drunk girl” in their posts.

Rumors of a possible crime spread, and people, often with little reliable information, quickly took sides. Some residents and others on social media blamed the girl, saying she put the football team in a bad light and put herself in a position to be violated. Others supported the girl, saying she was a victim of what they believed was a hero-worshiping culture built around football players who think they can do no wrong.

On Aug. 22, the possible crime made local news when the police came forward with details: two standout Steubenville football players — Mays, 16, from Bloomingdale, Ohio, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, from Steubenville — were arrested and later charged with raping a 16-year-old girl and kidnapping her by taking her to several parties while she was too drunk to resist.

The case is not the first time a high school football team has been entangled in accusations of sexual assault. But the situation in Steubenville has another layer to it that separates it from many others: It is a sexual assault accusation in the age of social media, when teenagers are capturing much of their lives on their camera phones — even repugnant, possibly criminal behavior, as they did in Steubenville in August — and then posting it on the Web, like a graphic, public diary.

Within days of the possible sexual assault, an online personality who often blogs about crime zeroed in on those public comments and photographs and injected herself into the story, complicating it and igniting ire in the community. She posted the information on her site and wrote online that the police and town officials were giving the football players special treatment.

The city’s police chief begged for witnesses to come forward, but received little response. In time, the county prosecutor and the judge in charge of handling crimes by juveniles recused themselves from the case because they had ties to the football team.

“It’s a very, very small community here,” said Jefferson County Juvenile Judge Samuel W. Kerr, who recused himself. His granddaughter dated one of the football players initially linked to the incident. “Everybody knows everybody.”

After more than two months in jail, they are under house arrest on rape charges, awaiting a trial that has been set for Feb. 13. Mays, a star wrestler, also faces a charge of disseminating nude photographs of a minor. The kidnapping charges were dropped.

The parents of the boys, who declined requests for extended interviews, said that the boys were innocent. The boys’ lawyers assert that the boys have been tried unfairly online, and vow they will be exonerated when all the facts are known.

The case has entangled dozens of people in and out of this town.

Three Steubenville High School athletes became witnesses for the prosecution and testified against Mays and Richmond, their friends, at a probable cause hearing in October. The crime blogger and more than a dozen people who posted comments on her Web site have been sued by a Steubenville football player and his parents for defamation. The girl’s mother, in several brief interviews last month, said her family had received threats, so extra police have been patrolling her neighborhood.

“The thing I found most disturbing about this is that there were other people around when this was going on,” Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty said of the events that unfolded. “Nobody had the morals to say, ‘Hey, stop it, that isn’t right.’

“If you could charge people for not being decent human beings, a lot of people could have been charged that night.”


A Bright Spot in Steubenville

Steubenville is an industrial city in Appalachia — locals love to note it is hometown to the Rat Pack crooner Dean Martin, the porn actress Traci Lords and the oddsmaker Jimmy Snyder, known as Jimmy the Greek. The city once was teeming with so much gambling, prostitution and organized crime that Steubenville was given the nickname Sin City. But now the downtown is a skeleton of its former self: though the Steubenville visitors center sells life-size cutouts of Dean Martin and “Dino Lives!” T-shirts, many stores are abandoned, boarded up long ago.

The Grand Theater, once a lavish Art Deco movie house, last showed a film in 1979. Around the corner, Denmark’s women’s clothing store is now a graveyard for discarded hangers and broken clothing racks. In the window of the store is a dusty Woman’s Home Companion magazine from 1948, just about the time Steubenville began its long and painful turn for the worse.

The steel mills that used to employ thousands and draw people here have all but ground to a halt, and the once-plentiful jobs in the coal mines are dwindling. The lack of jobs scared off residents at such a frenzied pace that Steubenville had by far the steepest decline in population of any metropolitan area in Ohio from 1970 through 2000, according to a study by Ohio State University.

And among those who have stayed — about 18,400 in Steubenville — many are struggling. The median household income is $33,188, about a third lower than the national figure. More than one quarter of the residents are living below the poverty level. Also, the police say the city’s drug problems are growing, with heroin addiction the latest vice. In recent decades, new residents arrived from Chicago, bringing “Chicago-style violence,” like drive-by shootings in the tough parts of town, said McCafferty, the police chief.

Despite all those components to this depressed city, a bright light remains for the people here: the Steubenville Big Red football team.

The team recorded its first season in 1900 and quickly became a legend in Ohio high school football. It has won nine state championships, including back-to-back undefeated seasons in 2005 and 2006.

Some former players call it a highlight of their lives to play at Harding Stadium, a gleaming shrine to football also called Death Valley. The stands seat 10,000, more than half the town’s population, and the home side is packed every game, sometimes so packed that it is standing room only. Tailgating in nearby parking lots usually begins about 9 a.m. for a 7:30 p.m. game. Several years ago, Halloween trick-or-treating was postponed because it fell on game day.

Inside the stadium, a big thrill for fans is seeing a sculpture of a rearing red stallion called Man O’War shoot a six-foot flame from its mouth, marking each time Big Red scores.

The team’s Web site declares that Big Red is “Keeping Steubenville on the map.” That is probably true.

“Everybody around here goes to games on Friday nights, and I mean everybody — people come for miles,” said Jim Flanagan, 48, who grew up in the area. “It’s basically the small-town effect. People live and die based on Big Red because they usually win and it makes everybody feel good about themselves when times are tough.”

But emphatic pride over high school athletes, Flanagan said, has turned into something that can feel ugly.

“The players are considered heroes, and that’s pretty pathetic, because they’ve been able to get away with things for years because of it,” Flanagan said. “Everyone just looks the other way.”


A Night Takes a Grim Turn

Just before 10 a.m. on Aug. 11, fans who are part of what is called the Big Red Nation poured into Harding Stadium clad in the team’s colors, red and black, to see Big Red’s second scrimmage of the season and to get a sense of how the team would fare this year.

What they saw were two players who stood out from the rest: Mays and Richmond.

Mays, who hails from a nearby town and who went to Steubenville High because of its successful football and wrestling programs, showed off his strong arm at quarterback. Richmond, who the police say came from a troubled home and has lived in Steubenville with guardians since he was 8, dominated as a quick and tall wide receiver. He also was a star of the Big Red basketball and track teams.

The two athletes gave hope to fans that Big Red might be headed back to the top.

Of Mays, one person at the time wrote on JJHuddle.com, a Web site for Ohio high school sports, “If he has the composure, could be very enjoyable to watch that young man grow up with Ma’lik.” Mays and Richmond helped Big Red prevail that day in the scrimmage, before heading off to a night of parties.

Across the river, in a well-kept two-story colonial house in a solidly middle-class West Virginia neighborhood, the 16-year-old girl told her parents that she was going to a sleepover at a friend’s house that night. She then headed off to those parties, too.

She is not a Steubenville High student; she attended a smaller, religion-based school, where she was an honor student and an athlete.

At the parties, the girl had so much to drink that she was unable to recall much from that night, and nothing past midnight, the police said. The girl began drinking early on, according to an account that the police pieced together from witnesses, including two of the three Steubenville High athletes who testified in court in October. By 10 or 10:30 that night, it was clear that the dark-haired teenager was drunk because she was stumbling and slurring her words, witnesses testified.

Some people at the party taunted her, chanted and cheered as a Steubenville High baseball player dared bystanders to urinate on her, one witness testified.

About two hours later, the girl left the party with several Big Red football players, including Mays and Richmond, witnesses said. They stayed only briefly at a second party before leaving for their third party of the night. Two witnesses testified that the girl needed help walking. One testified that she was carried out of the house by Mays and Richmond while she “was sleeping.”

She woke up long enough to vomit in the street, a witness said, and she remained there alone for several minutes with her top off. Another witness said Mays and Richmond were holding her hair back.

Afterward, they headed to the home of one football player who has now become a witness for the prosecution. That player told the police that he was in the back seat of his Volkswagen Jetta with Mays and the girl when Mays proceeded to flash the girl’s breasts and penetrate her with his fingers, while the player videotaped it on his phone. The player, who shared the video with at least one person, testified that he videotaped Mays and the girl “because he was being stupid, not making the right choices.” He said he later deleted the recording.

The girl “was just sitting there, not really doing anything,” the player testified. “She was kind of talking, but I couldn’t make out the words that she was saying.”

At that third party, the girl could not walk on her own and vomited several times before toppling onto her side, several witnesses testified. Mays then tried to coerce the girl into giving him oral sex, but the girl was unresponsive, according to the player who videotaped Mays and the girl.

The player said he did not try to stop it because “at the time, no one really saw it as being forceful.”

At one point, the girl was on the ground, naked, unmoving and silent, according to two witnesses who testified. Mays, they said, had exposed himself while he was right next to her.

Richmond was behind her, with his hands between her legs, penetrating her with his fingers, a witness said.

“I tried to tell Trent to stop it,” another athlete, who was Mays’s best friend, testified. “You know, I told him, ‘Just wait — wait till she wakes up if you’re going to do any of this stuff. Don’t do anything you’re going to regret.’ ”

He said Mays answered: “It’s all right. Don’t worry.”

That boy took a photograph of what Mays and Richmond were doing to the girl. He explained in court how he wanted her to know what had happened to her, but he deleted it from his phone, he testified, after showing it to several people.

The girl slept on a couch in the basement of that home that night, with Mays alongside her before he took a spot on the floor.

When she awoke, she was unaware of what had happened to her, she has told her parents and the police. But by then, the story of her night was already unfolding on the Internet, on Twitter and via text messages. Compromising and explicit photographs of her were posted and shared.

Within a day, a family member in town shared with the girl’s parents more disturbing visuals: a photograph posted on Instagram of their daughter who looked passed out at a party and a YouTube video of a former Steubenville baseball player talking about a rape. That former player, who graduated earlier this year, also posted on Twitter, “Song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana,” and “Some people deserve to be peed on,” which was reshared on Twitter by several people, including Mays.

The parents then notified the police and took their daughter to a hospital. At 1:38 a.m. on Aug. 14, the girl’s parents walked into the Steubenville police station with a flash drive with photographs from online, Twitter posts and the video on it. It was all the evidence the girl’s parents had, leaving the police with the task of filling in the details of what had happened that night. The police said the case was challenging partly because too much time had passed since the suspected rape. By then, the girl had taken at least one shower and might have washed away evidence, said McCafferty, the police chief. He added that it also was too late for toxicology tests to determine if she had been drugged.

“My daughter learned about what had happened to her that night by reading the story about it in the local newspaper,” the girl’s mother said.

“How would you like to go through that as a mother, seeing your daughter, who is your entire world, treated like that?” the mother said. “It was devastating for all of us.”

Mays and Richmond were arrested Aug. 22, about a week after the girl’s parents reported the suspected rape.


Taking Sides on Blogs

Alexandria Goddard, a 45-year-old Web analyst who once lived in Steubenville and writes about national crime on a blog, heard about the case early on and rushed to investigate it herself. She told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in September that she did so because she had little faith that the authorities would do a thorough job.

Before many of the partygoers could delete their posts, photographs or videos, she took screen shots of them, posting them on her site, Prinniefied.com. On Aug. 24, just after the arrests, she wrote on her site that it was “a slam dunk case” because, she said, Mays and Richmond videotaped and photographed their crime and then posted those images on the Web. Goddard pressed her case.

“What normal person would even consider that posting the brutal rape of a young girl is something that should be shared with their peers?” she wrote. “Do they think because they are Big Red players that the rules don’t apply to them?”

She cited by name several current and former Steubenville athletes, accusing them of having a criminal role in the suspected assault by failing to stop it and then disseminating photographs of it. According to court documents, Goddard responded to a comment that read, “Students by day ...gang rape participants by night” by writing that the football coach should be ashamed of letting players linked to the incident remain on the field. In another post, she added, “Why aren’t more kids in jail. They all knew.”

Of the Big Red athletes who were with Mays and Richmond that night, she said: “No, you are not stars. You are criminals who are walking around right now on borrowed time.”

Anonymous commenters on her blog took aim at Steubenville High, its football coaching staff and the local police for not disciplining more players or making more arrests in connection with the rape accusation. On another site, Change.org, a person started a petition demanding that the school and the coach publicly apologize to the girl. The petition also asked that the Steubenville schools superintendent admit that there was a “rape culture and excessive adulation of male athletes” at Steubenville High.

In a day, 100 people signed the petition, and 169 signed before no more signatures were accepted.

Around town, the discussion of what might have happened that night in August raged, growing more heated by the day. The accusations on Goddard’s blog, posted by Goddard and others, sparked more debate. The local newspaper, The Herald-Star, ran a letter to the editor from Joe Scalise, a Steubenville resident, who criticized the blogger’s site, saying it “has lent itself to character assassination and has begun to resemble a lynch mob.”

Even without much official public information about the night, some people in town are skeptical of the police account, like Nate Hubbard, a Big Red volunteer coach.

As he stood in the shadow of Harding Stadium, where he once dazzled the crowd with his runs, Hubbard gave voice to some of the popular, if harsh, suspicions.

“The rape was just an excuse, I think,” said the 27-year-old Hubbard, who is No. 2 on the Big Red’s career rushing list.

“What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?” said Hubbard, who is one of the team’s 19 coaches. “She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.”

There is no shortage of people who feel the opposite. They absolutely accept the account of sexual assault, and are weary of what they call the protection and indulgence afforded the football team. That said, more than a dozen people interviewed last month who were critical of the football team and its protected status, real or perceived, did not want their names used in connection with comments about the team, for fear of retribution from Big Red football fans.

One man said he wanted to see the accused boys go to prison, but insisted he remain anonymous because he did not want his house to be a target for vandalism.

Bill Miller, a painter who played for Big Red in the 1980s, said the coach was to blame because he was too lenient with players regarding bad behavior off the field.

“There’s a set of rules that don’t apply to everybody,” he said of what he called the favoritism regarding the players. “This has been happening since the early ’80s; this is nothing new. It’s disgusting. I can’t stand it. The culture is not what it should be. It’s not clean.”

Others attacked Goddard, the crime blogger, for her commentary regarding what she called the town’s twisted football culture and its special treatment of football players, including a player who is suing her for defamation. As part of the legal action against her by the player and his family, the court has allowed the family’s lawyers to seek the identities of those people who disparaged the player by name on the blog. The player has not been charged with any crime.

Goddard, who has not been located by the court so it can serve her with a copy of the complaint, did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment. She remains active on her blog.

Goddard’s lawyers, Thomas G. Haren and Jeffrey M. Nye, said that their client was a journalist whose work was protected by the First Amendment.

“This case strikes at the heart of the freedom of speech and of the press,” they said in a statement. “We intend to see those constitutional guarantees vindicated at the end of the day.”


Seeking Evidence

Despite the seeming abundance of material online regarding the night of the suspected rape and the number of teenagers who were at the parties that night, the police still have had trouble establishing what anyone might regard as an airtight case.

A medical examination at a hospital more than one day after the parties did not reveal any evidence, like semen, that might have supported an accusation of rape, the police said. The Steubenville police knocked on doors of the people thought to be at the parties, but not many people were forthcoming with information. In several instances, the police seized cellphones so they could look for photographs or videos related to the case.

Eventually, 15 phones and 2 iPads were confiscated and analyzed by a cyber crime expert at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. That expert could not retrieve deleted photographs and videos on most of the phones.

In the end, the expert recovered two naked photographs of the girl. One photograph showed the girl face down on the floor at one party, naked with her arms tucked beneath her, according to testimony given at a hearing in October. The other photograph was not described. Both photographs were found on Mays’s iPhone. No photograph or video showed anyone involved in a sexual act with the girl.

Anonymous complaints and chatter on the Internet about a less than fully aggressive investigation have perhaps not surprisingly proliferated.

It has left McCafferty, the police chief, fuming and frustrated.

For weeks after the girl’s parents came forward, he again pleaded to the other partygoers to come forward with information about the possible sexual assault. Only one did, he said.

“Everybody on those Web sites kept saying stuff that wasn’t true and saying, why wasn’t this person arrested, why aren’t the police doing anything about it,” he said. “Everybody wanted to incriminate more of the football players, some because some of the other schools in the area are simply jealous of Big Red.”

McCafferty, who has been the police chief for 11 years, is sensitive when it comes to criticism of his police force. He took over in the wake of a United States Department of Justice inquiry into the Steubenville Police Department’s patterns of false arrests and excessive force. And he now goes out of his way to try to assure residents that they can trust the police department again.

He said it bothered him when he heard people say that Big Red players got away with crimes in town. If crimes are being committed, he said, they are not being reported. He said no one had ever given him a concrete example of players’ receiving special treatment.

In 23 years on the force, he said, he can only remember one player before Mays and Richmond being arrested; that player was convicted of assault.

“It’s always, ‘They said players are getting away with things,’ but when I ask who ‘they’ is, no one can tell me,” McCafferty said.


Standing by His Players

In this part of the football-obsessed Ohio Valley — where at least several houses in every neighborhood have a “Roll Red Roll” or a “Big Red” sign out front — everybody knows Coach Reno Saccoccia. He has coached two generations of players at Big Red and has won 3 state titles and 85 percent of his games, according to the team’s Web site. The football team’s field is named Reno Field.

This season, the coach, who is used to winning, had to do without Mays and Richmond. But others who were at the parties and might have witnessed the suspected assault continued to play on the team. Saccoccia, a 63-year-old who brims with bravado, was the sole person in charge of determining whether any players would be punished.

Saccoccia, pronounced SOCK-otch, told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.

The two players who testified at a hearing in early October to determine if there was enough evidence to continue the case were eventually suspended from the team. That came eight games into the 10-game regular season.

Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, Saccoccia said he did not “do the Internet,” so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.

“You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.

Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”

Shawn Crosier, the principal of Steubenville High, and Michael McVey, the superintendent of Steubenville schools, said they entrusted Saccoccia with determining whether any players should be disciplined for what they might have done or saw the night of Aug. 11. Neither Crosier nor McVey spoke to any students about the events of that summer night, they said, because they were satisfied that Saccoccia would handle it.

In an interview last month, Crosier maintained that he was not aware of what might have happened to the girl, even with all of the talk in the town, until three Big Red athletes testified in early October. At the same time, he said that he might have read the online petition that called for a public apology from the players and the team. He said that if he had, he had not thought much of it.

McVey said he was not aware of the team having any off-field issues before this one.

“If this happened as a pattern, it would have set off an alarm,” McVey said of the possible sexual assault. “But we think this was an isolated incident.”

Neither Mays nor Richmond had a record, the police said, and each had numerous community members testify as character witnesses for them at the hearing in which the judge determined they should be tried as juveniles, not as adults.

Saccoccia was one of those witnesses, as was Michael Haney, the school’s varsity basketball coach, who said Richmond was such a talented player that he ranked in the top 100 high school players in the state.

Yet the football season went on without Mays and Richmond, two of the team’s stars. And Big Red’s record reflected the gap in its roster.

The team finished the season 9-3 after losing in the second round of the playoffs. It was the end of a disappointing year for the program and the fans who expect so much from Big Red players.

The fans from a perennial rival, the Massillon Tigers, took advantage of the team’s legal troubles and taunted players.

In the Tigers’ cheering section at the game against Steubenville was one fan who painted on his chest the words, “Rape Big Red.”


Players and Families Wait

Big Red’s season ended in early November, and the daily conversation in town is less and less about the suspected rape than it is about how the team will perform next year.

But inside a courtroom at the county jail, less than two miles down a hill from the football stadium, the debate over what happened to the girl that summer night is still unfolding.

The hearings in the case are open to the public, but court documents regarding the matter are sealed because the defendants are juveniles. Mays and Richmond were released to their families or guardians last month, though they must wear electronic monitoring devices and are allowed to leave home only to attend school at the county jail or church. On school days, they head to classes at the jail, wearing their new uniform: green sweat pants and tan shirts, which have numbers on their left sleeves.

Last month, Mays’s father, Brian, declined to be interviewed, saying, “It’ll all work out.” From the street outside his house, two shelves filled with athletic trophies could be seen inside a second-story room.

Richmond’s father, Nate, said his son was innocent. In September, he camped outside the county jail next to a banner that read, “Set my people free.”

“He didn’t do anything,” Richmond said.

Ma’lik Richmond now lives with his legal guardians, Jennifer and Greg Agresta, in a middle-class neighborhood with neatly trimmed lawns. A basketball hoop sits on the street in front of his house. Greg Agresta is a member of the school board.

Richmond’s grandmother, Mae, said the charges surprised her because Ma’lik had been so focused on sports and school, with hopes of leaving Steubenville for a better life and having a better life than his father, who has served time in prison and been charged with many crimes, including manslaughter.

“Me and Coach Reno was talking, and he said Ma’lik was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.

Adam Nemann, Mays’s lawyer, said the case was unusual because the police collected no physical evidence or testimony from the girl who asserts she was raped.

“The whole question is consent,” he said. “Was she conscious enough to give consent or not? We think she was. She gave out the pass code to her phone after the sexual assault was said to have occurred.”

Walter Madison, Richmond’s lawyer, said his client was already at a marked disadvantage because so many people discussed the incident online, through blogs and on Twitter.

“It’s an uphill battle because you’ve got social media going on and people formulating opinions, people who weren’t there and don’t know what happened,” he said. “In a small community, it exponentially snowballs out of control. I think the scales are a bit unbalanced.”

He said that online photographs and posts could ultimately be “a gift” for his client’s case because the girl, before that night in August, had posted provocative comments and photographs on her Twitter page over time. He added that those online posts demonstrated that she was sexually active and showed that she was “clearly engaged in at-risk behavior.”

The lawyers for the boys also said the three athletes who testified against their clients had credibility issues. The lawyers said that the police had found nude photographs of women on the phone of one of the witnesses, and that two witnesses had admitted recording some aspect of the suspected assault. Those alone could be crimes, the lawyers said, but the witnesses were given immunity from prosecution. Their testimony, the lawyers suggested, might have been given in a bid for leniency.

The special prosecutors on the case, Marianne Hemmeter and Jennifer Brumby of the Ohio Attorney General’s Crimes Against Children unit, declined to comment because the investigation was open.

But in court, they have rejected the defense’s claims. The girl, they have said, was in no condition to give consent to sexual advances that night — and the teenagers there knew it, the prosecutors said.

At a hearing in early October, prosecutors told the judge in the case that the defendants treated the girl “like a toy” and “the bottom line is we don’t have to prove that she said ‘no,’ we just have to prove that when they’re doing things to her, she’s not moving. She’s not responsive, and the evidence is consistent and clear.”

At a hearing last month, the girl’s mother said her daughter remained distraught and did not want to attend school. The girl’s friends have ostracized her, and parents have kept their children away from her, the mother said.

The girl does not sleep much, said the mother, who testified that she often hears her daughter crying at night.

The mother said the obsession with high school football in Steubenville is partly to blame. It shocked her that Saccoccia testified as a character witness for the defendants last month, she said.

In the courtroom that day, she remembered thinking, how dare he?

“Just Coach Reno saying he would testify for those boys, saying he was so proud of them, that speaks volumes,” she said. “All those football players are put on a pedestal over there, and it’s such a status symbol to play for Big Red, the culture is so different over there.”

The mother added: “I do feel like they’ve had preferential treatment, and it’s unreal, almost like we’re part of a TV show. It’s like a bad “CSI” episode. What those boys did was disgusting, disgusting, and for people to stand up for them, that’s disgusting, too.”

    Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City, NYT, 16.12.2012,






After Fatal Subway Shove, Asking: Were There No Heroes?


December 4, 2012
The New York Times


The question of the day in New York City on Tuesday — what would you do? — rode on a wave of outrage over a harrowing act the day before. A clearly agitated man pushed a 58-year-old stranger onto the track of an oncoming subway train in Midtown Manhattan.

The man, Ki-Suck Han of Elmhurst, Queens, was struck and killed.

As happens once every few years, riders collectively looked down at the tracks to face a fear peculiar to the subway system. What would you do if you were pushed to the tracks? Or if you were standing beside someone who was pushed?

“I wouldn’t do the wrong thing,” one man said as he waited for a train at the station where Mr. Han was hit, at 49th Street and Seventh Avenue, on Tuesday. That was enough, he said: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

The episode, while not unheard-of in New York City, brought with it something distinctly new: pictures, taken seconds before the victim was struck, by a freelance photographer waiting for the train.

The pictures, which were published in The New York Post, brought wide criticism and were derided as ghoulish and insensitive. But the pictures’ mere existence started another conversation across the city on Tuesday, summarized by the television weatherman Al Roker, who, on NBC’s “Today Show,” said: “Somebody’s taking that picture. Why aren’t they helping this guy up?”

The police took a suspect in the case into custody Tuesday afternoon at 50th Street and Seventh Avenue, just a block from the subway entrance where detectives had spent hours boarding subways, car by car, and asking witnesses to come forward.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said Tuesday night that the suspect had implicated himself in the crime. He said that charges were not expected until Wednesday because detectives wanted to conduct a lineup for witnesses to identify the attacker.

One law enforcement official said that the suspect, originally from Africa, was a peddler and was on the street working when he was taken into custody. The official said that detectives were trying to determine a motive.

“I don’t think this is a crazy man throwing people under the train,” the official said, adding, “there is interaction between the two of them.” Part of the exchange was recorded on video; it has led investigators to believe there was some sort of dispute before the attack.

The official said that the suspect had been arrested before, but apparently only for low-level offenses, including peddling. Vendors who said they knew the man, who has not been officially identified, said he ran errands and helped them haul their wares to storage for $5 a trip, and that he showed up on Tuesday with his head and beard shaved.

“I showed him The Post,” said Liz Willis, who runs a newsstand on the corner. “ ‘This looks like you,’ ” she said she told him. “He said, ‘That’s not me.’ ” She saw a detective lead him away a short while later. Another law enforcement official said the man did odd jobs for street peddlers, making roughly $40 a day.

The freelance photographer who took the pictures, R. Umar Abbasi, defended his actions in an interview. “I’m being unfairly beaten up in the press,” he said at his apartment in Greenwich Village on Tuesday, before leading a reporter to the 49th Street subway platform to re-enact what had happened.

Mr. Abbasi said he was wearing a 20-odd pound backpack of camera gear for an assignment, and was standing near the 47th Street entrance to the platform when he saw the man fall on the tracks. “Nobody helped,” he said. “People started running away.”

“I saw the lights in the distance,” signaling a subway’s approach, he said, so he started firing off flashes on the camera — 49 times in all, he said — as a means of warning the driver.

“I was not aiming to take a photograph of the man on the track,” he said, later adding that his arm was fully outstretched, the camera far from his face.

“If I had reached him in time, I would have pulled him up,” he said. At one point, the man said to have shoved Mr. Han came toward Mr. Abbasi, he said, so he backed up against a wall, still flashing his camera. He estimated the victim was on the tracks for 10 or 15 seconds before he was struck.

“The driver said he slowed down because he saw my flashes,” he said.

Mr. Abbasi said he brought police officers to The Post’s offices, where they examined the pictures for any images of the perpetrator, and he left the camera’s memory card with editors at The Post. He was not part of the decision to publish the pictures, he said.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see the image of death,” he said. “I don’t care about a photograph.”

Mr. Abbasi’s wife, Joan Sherman, said, “I understand people being heroes, but you also have to be realistic about what you’re capable of and your strength.”

The police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, when asked about the photographer’s actions, said: “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”

“I don’t know how fast the train was coming in,” he added. News reports emerged saying Mr. Han had been drinking before the exchange, which occurred at about 12:30 p.m., after he argued with his wife. Mr. Han approached the man who pushed him, witnesses said, though it was unclear why. The man had been seen mumbling to himself. The encounter was a new wrinkle.

“He was trying to do good,” said Edmilson Xavier, 49, on Tuesday, imagining Mr. Han’s motivations, perhaps emboldened by alcohol. “ ‘Hey, listen, guy, you’re scaring people around here.’ ”

In Mr. Abbasi’s photos, several bystanders seemed to be gathered at the far end of the platform, waving at the oncoming train to slow down. “Good for these people,” Mr. Xavier said. But he asked, “Wasn’t there anybody who was strong enough to pull this guy out?”

He added, “Don’t ask me what I would do.”

The photographer found a defender in a perhaps unexpected source: a subway hero. Chad Lindsey, an actor, saw a man fall to the tracks at the Penn Station subway stop in 2009, and leapt down to help him up. He cautioned against questioning the photographer’s actions on the platform based on the picture.

“That photo makes me think one thing: misleading. It’s a still shot,” Mr. Lindsey wrote in an e-mail. “Everything about our relationship to that track bed is out of whack. We curse it, we fear it, we daily look at it curiously, ride on it, spit on it. It doesn’t look as deep as it is, the platform edge isn’t built the way you think it is, the trains are massive and move so quickly along it, and no one knows what his leg muscles will do until they are tested.”


Reporting was contributed by Joseph Goldstein, J. David Goodman,

William K. Rashbaum, Wendy Ruderman and Nate Schweber.

    After Fatal Subway Shove, Asking: Were There No Heroes?, NYT, 4.12.2012,






Upper West Side Nanny Is Charged With Murder

in 2 Children’s Deaths


November 3, 2012
The New York Times


A nanny accused of killing the two young children she was caring for on Oct. 25 in their Upper West Side apartment was charged on Saturday night with first-degree murder, the police said.

The nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, 50, was charged with fatally stabbing the children, Lucia Krim, 6, and her brother, Leo, 2, shortly before their mother, Marina Krim, returned from a swimming lesson with her other young daughter.

The police said they had delayed charging Ms. Ortega for more than a week because she was intubated and unable to speak as doctors treated wounds she received when she stabbed herself in the throat and slashed her wrists.

Ms. Ortega talked with New York City detectives on Saturday afternoon from her bed at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she remains under police guard, Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, said in a statement.

Mr. Browne gave no details about Ms. Ortega’s condition nor any indication of when she would leave the hospital.

He also declined to give information about a possible motive.

On the day of the killing, Ms. Krim returned home in the early evening with her 3-year-old daughter to find her two other children dead of knife wounds in the bathtub. As Ms. Krim walked into the bathroom, police said, Ms. Ortega plunged a kitchen knife into her own throat.

Ms. Ortega, who police said was a naturalized American citizen from the Dominican Republic, had been referred to the Krims by a family friend and had worked for them for about two years. Police said there was no record of her having committed a previous crime or any indication that there were tensions between her and the Krims.

But relatives and friends of Ms. Ortega have said that she seemed to have been unraveling lately and had sought help from a mental health professional. Her home, which she shared with several relatives including her teenage son, was crowded, and she had financial difficulties.

    Upper West Side Nanny Is Charged With Murder in 2 Children’s Deaths, NYT, 3.11.2012,






Life Was in Chaos for Nanny Accused of Killing 2 Children


October 26, 2012
The New York Times


She was unraveling. Yoselyn Ortega’s home was an overcrowded tenement that she yearned to leave. She shared the apartment with her teenage son, a sister and a niece, and roamed the halls selling cheap cosmetics and jewelry for extra money. She had been forced to relinquish a new apartment for her and her son and move back. A woman had chiseled her on a debt. Neighbors found her sulky and remote. She seemed to be losing weight.

Juan Pozo, 67, a car service driver who used to rent a room in her apartment, said he spoke to her sister on Friday, who told him that Ms. Ortega had not been feeling well lately, “that she felt like she was losing her mind.”

He said the family had taken her to see a psychologist, an account shared by others, including the police.

This was the unfinished portrait that began to emerge on Friday of Ms. Ortega, the Manhattan nanny who, the authorities said, committed the unthinkable.

On Thursday evening around 5:30, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, Marina Krim returned to her Upper West Side apartment with her 3-year-old daughter to discover her two other children, a 2-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, dead of knife wounds in the bathtub and Ms. Ortega slashing herself with the same bloodied kitchen knife used on the children.

Ms. Ortega, 50, survived, but the police have been unable to question her because she remains in the hospital in a medically induced coma, a deep stab wound in her throat. She has not yet been charged.

The authorities remain mystified over the motive. Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, said family members had told detectives that Ms. Ortega “over the last couple of months was not herself.”

“She was, according to others, seeking some professional help,” he said, adding, “There were financial concerns.”

Ms. Ortega, who the police said was a naturalized American citizen from the Dominican Republic, had worked for the Krims for about two years. She had been referred by another family, the police said, and did not come through an agency, which customarily does background checks. A law enforcement official said Ms. Ortega had had no previous brushes with the law, nor have detectives learned of any tensions in her relationship with the Krims.

“No fighting with the mom, the family, the kids,” the official said. “Everybody is looking for a reason here.” He added, “We’ve got nothing bad other than the fact that she killed two children.”

On Friday, the sort of memorial with stuffed animals and flowers that has become sadly familiar in the aftermath of a city tragedy took shape outside the Krim apartment building, as parents pondered what to say to their own children. Disbelief was pervasive in the neighborhood.

“I don’t have words for something like that,” said William Davila, whose daughter is a fifth grader at Public School 87, which Lucia Krim, 6, had attended. The children’s father, Kevin Krim, was returning from a business trip on Thursday when he was met by the police at the airport.

Mr. Krim learned that his youngest child, Leo, and his daughter Lucia, known as Lulu, had died and that the police had arrested the nanny with whom the Krims were so close that they had traveled to her home in the Dominican Republic. He is an executive at CNBC. Ms. Krim did not work outside the home, but taught an occasional art class at the Museum of Natural History. On Thursday night, CNBC put the Krims up in a hotel.

Mr. Krim’s father, William Krim, 74, said the parents had not returned to their apartment.

“I don’t know if they ever will,” he said. “I don’t know if I could.”

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, said Lucia had died of “multiple stab and incise wounds,” and Leo of “incise wounds of the neck.” They had been clothed, a law enforcement official said, suggesting that Ms. Ortega had not been bathing the children.

For about 30 years, according to neighbors, Ms. Ortega has lived in a six-story tenement building at 610 Riverside Drive in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. Before the nanny job, they said, she had worked in factories and as a cleaning lady. A neighbor said the sister she lived with was a taxi driver.

This year, Maria Lajara, 41, a friend who lives in the building, said Ms. Ortega had stopped by to tell her how happy she was that she had found a new apartment in the Bronx for herself and her son. She said that Ms. Ortega had conveyed how much she loved working for the Krims and that she was paid and treated well. Also this year, she said, the Krims had given Ms. Ortega an Ann Taylor jacket as a gift.

Nannies who work near one another often form social networks, setting up joint play dates or meeting at playgrounds. But most other nannies in the Krim building said they were unfamiliar with Ms. Ortega.

One nanny, Terla Duran, 35, said she did not know Ms. Ortega, but a friend who is a nanny did.

“Not many of us knew her; they say she was very strange,” Ms. Duran said. “She spent most of her time locked up inside the apartment.”

Once she moved to the Bronx, Ms. Ortega stayed in touch with Ms. Lajara, her friend. She would tell Ms. Lajara to save copies of a religious magazine, Rayo de Luz, which Ms. Ortega’s sister would then take to her.

Twice, Ms. Ortega asked Ms. Lajara to pray that a woman would pay her for makeup she had given her to sell. The amount, Ms. Lajara said, was about $100, and it was important to her.

Within the past few months, Ms. Ortega returned to live with her sister. Fernando Mercado, the superintendent of the building on Riverside Drive, said she had been renting the Bronx apartment from an acquaintance who moved to the Dominican Republic. But the tenant returned and threw out Ms. Ortega. “She spent a lot of money on the Bronx apartment,” Mr. Mercado said of Ms. Ortega.

Neighbors on Riverside Drive said that in recent weeks, Ms. Ortega had looked older, anxious, harried. Ruben Rivas, one of the neighbors, described her as “kind of devastated.”

He last saw her two weeks ago. “She was in bad shape,” he said. “Skinny.”

Neighbors said she walked faster in the hallways and was withdrawn. She had been known as a gregarious woman who, they said, greeted them with shouts of “Hola, vecina” — “Hello, neighbor.” But now, they said, she avoided eye contact and said little.

Kenia Galo, 25, who has known her all her life, would see her in the elevator lately and remark that she looked tired.

“I am tired,” she would reply. “Work.”

Neighbors said she would leave the building at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and not return for 12 hours.

Ana Bonet, 40, a neighbor, said that besides her nanny job, Ms. Ortega sold inexpensive jewelry and makeup to neighbors. Others said she also earned money by cooking rice and chicken dishes for parties.

The Krim parents were both Californians who have been married for about nine years. Ms. Krim grew up in Manhattan Beach, and Mr. Krim in Thousand Oaks, where he was a football star. He worked at McKinsey & Company in Los Angeles and she worked for a wholesaler of powders; they met at an Italian restaurant in Venice Beach.

Mr. Krim took a job at Yahoo in San Francisco, where they lived before moving to New York about three years ago. After first being employed at Bloomberg L.P., Mr. Krim moved to CNBC.

According to Mr. Krim’s parents, Ms. Ortega was hired about six months after the Krims came to New York. They did not know what vetting the couple did.

“We’re just the most stunned people in the world — I mean, they treated this woman so well,” said William Krim, who lists Marina Krim in his cellphone as “World’s Best Mom.”

Though Ms. Krim did not work outside the home, Mr. Krim’s parents said, they wanted a nanny to help out. Sometimes, Ms. Krim would take the two oldest children out with her, leaving the youngest with Ms. Ortega, whom they called Josie.

An acquaintance of Mr. Krim said he had been extremely happy in California and often lamented the difficulties of family life in New York and how it was necessary for a big family to have help.

Mr. Krim’s mother, Karen Krim, said Ms. Krim was a hands-on mother. “They’re both very careful,” she said. “She didn’t even leave the kids that much alone with this nanny; that’s the irony of all this.”

She added: “She didn’t have a nanny so she could go out and play tennis — not that there’s anything wrong with that. But she was always with the kids, and Josie just helped her because, with three little kids, it’s really hard.”

When the Krims took family vacations, they paid to fly the nanny to Santo Domingo to visit her family. One time, they accompanied her because Ms. Ortega wanted them to meet her family. Marina Krim maintained a blog, on which she chronicled “life with the little Krim kids.”

Charlotte Friedman, a retiree who lives in the Krims’ building, may have been the last person to see the children alive. She did not know the members of the family, but would periodically bump into them. Around 5 p.m. on Thursday, she said, she entered the elevator, heading for her seventh-floor apartment, at the same time as the nanny and the children.

She asked the girl if she had been on a play date. The child replied that she had been dancing. Ms. Friedman described the girl as “happy, happy, happy.”

The times she had encountered Ms. Ortega, she found her cold. There in the elevator, she said, the nanny smiled but said nothing. And then, she and the children got off on the second floor.


Reporting was contributed by James Barron, David M. Halbfinger, Daniel Krieger,

Peter Lattman, Randy Leonard, William K. Rashbaum, Nate Schweber,

Daniella Silva and Vivian Yee.

    Life Was in Chaos for Nanny Accused of Killing 2 Children, NYT, 26.10.2012,






Pregnant Woman’s Body Found Day Before Wedding


October 20, 2012
The New York Times


A woman who was eight months pregnant and due to be married over the weekend was found stabbed to death inside her Brooklyn home on Saturday morning, the police said.

The police found the victim, whom they identified as Vindalee Smith, 38, at about 9:30 a.m. lying on the floor of her house on 94th Street in Brownsville. The child that she was carrying also died, the police said.

Authorities said that detectives were trying to find Ms. Smith’s fiancé for questioning, but gave no further information about a possible suspect or motive.

All day on Saturday, friends and members of Ms. Smith’s church held tearful vigil outside the red brick town house where she lived. They hugged and prayed. At one point they opened prayer books and began singing the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”

Friends said Ms. Smith was an active member of the New Dimension Seventh-day Adventist Church on Winthrop Street, attending services every Saturday, the day Seventh-day Adventists reserve for prayer. She had four children, including two who were in college, friends said.

“When she met people on the street, she always told them about the Lord,” Edith Thomas, a fellow churchgoer, said.

Few knew much about Ms. Smith’s fiancé or the impending wedding, which was scheduled for Sunday. Mitzie Holstein, who said she was a friend, said that Ms. Smith met her fiancé, who she identified only as Andrew, a year ago. She said that he seemed quiet and possibly worked in construction.

Around 6:30 p.m., medical examiners brought Ms. Smith’s body out of her house. As the gurney carrying her body was wheeled to an awaiting van, about 100 people gathered outside began singing “Amazing Grace.”

The crowd then dispersed, with some walking up the street back to the church in tears.


Wendy Ruderman and Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.

    Pregnant Woman’s Body Found Day Before Wedding, NYT, 20.10.2012,






A Girl’s Neighbors Are Left

to Grieve and Fear a Predator in Their Midst


October 16, 2012
The New York Times


WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Families move to this Denver suburb for its schools and safety. It is a place where boys skateboard on the winding streets, children walk to school together and holiday decorations broadcast the change of seasons long before the leaves fall or the snow comes.

But that idyllic environment has been shaken by the killing of a 10-year-old girl named Jessica Ridgeway, who vanished as she walked to meet a group of friends on their way to Witt Elementary School on Oct. 5.

After a week of frantic searches through hills and fields, of false sightings, tearful pleas from family members and bouquets of purple balloons — her favorite color — tied to mailboxes, the police announced on Friday that they had found her body near an abandoned mine shack in an open area less than 10 miles from her home. Her body, the police said, was “not intact.”

Local and federal investigators have vowed to track down her killer, canvassed the area and received more than 4,000 tips. They have ruled out Jessica’s parents as suspects, but have made no arrests, and are asking the public to keep an eye out for anyone behaving suspiciously since the girl’s disappearance.

“There is somebody who preyed on a child in our community, and we need everybody’s help to identify who he is,” said Trevor Materasso, a spokesman for the Westminster Police Department.

That uncertainty haunts people across this community. As they turn out for memorial services and vigils, they say they are shaken by the realization that she could have been anyone’s daughter and, now, that her killer could be anyone’s neighbor.

“Everybody’s very scared,” said Keith Burke, a parent at Jessica’s school. “There’s a predator that lives by somewhere. We don’t know where, and until we do, everybody’s going to be on edge.”

Two police cars were parked outside Witt Elementary, near the impromptu memorial of posters and stuffed animals. The police in Westminster have been pulling longer shifts at other schools, and the town has redeployed traffic patrol officers to watch over after-school programs and parks.

Police and school officials in the area have received a flurry of reports of suspicious vehicles and people acting strangely, though none have been tied to Jessica’s death.

On Monday, the principal at Arvada K-8, a nearby school, sent parents a letter saying that a student reported she had been approached by a goateed man in his 30s wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. In mid-September, school officials warned parents of two attempted abductions, one by a man offering candy if a child got into his car.

Parents have posted and reposted the reports on Facebook pages and e-mailed them to one another. Lynn Setzer, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County school district, said no schools had closed because of Jessica’s death or the other attempted abductions. She said that attendance at Jessica’s school had been normal.

But until an arrest is made or they have more information, some parents are walking or driving their children to school rather than letting them go alone. Others have talked with their children about safety and strangers, and struggled to explain to them how someone could kidnap and kill a buoyant, animal-loving 10-year-old girl as she set off for school with her backpack, purple-and-pink glasses perched on her nose.

“There are evil people in the world,” said Dave DeMott, who moved back to Westminster so he could raise his four children in the neighborhood and schools where he grew up.

Mr. DeMott’s oldest daughter had been a classmate of Jessica’s, and he said his family had talked about her death, about why their children were not allowed to go certain places or to walk to school by themselves.

“I’m a man of faith,” he said. “That’s how I raise my family. We lean against that. There are a lot of prayers, but at the same time, we’ve got to keep our family safe.”

    A Girl’s Neighbors Are Left to Grieve and Fear a Predator in Their Midst, NYT, 16.10.2012,






To Fight Crime, a Poor City Will Trade In Its Police


September 28, 2012
The New York Times


CAMDEN, N.J. — Two gruesome murders of children last month — a toddler decapitated, a 6-year-old stabbed in his sleep — served as reminders of this city’s reputation as the most dangerous in America. Others can be found along the blocks of row houses spray-painted “R.I.P.,” empty liquor bottles clustered on their porches in memorial to murder victims.

The police acknowledge that they have all but ceded these streets to crime, with murders on track to break records this year. And now, in a desperate move to regain control, city officials are planning to disband the Police Department.

The reason, officials say, is that generous union contracts have made it financially impossible to keep enough officers on the street. So in November, Camden, which has already had substantial police layoffs, will begin terminating the remaining 273 officers and give control to a new county force. The move, officials say, will free up millions to hire a larger, nonunionized force of 400 officers to safeguard the city, which is also the nation’s poorest.

Hardly a political battle of the last several years has been fiercer than the one over the fate of public sector unions. But Camden’s decision to remake perhaps the most essential public service for a city riven by crime underscores how communities are taking previously unimaginable steps to get out from under union obligations that built up over generations.

Though the city is solidly Democratic, the plan to put the Police Department out of business has not prompted the wide public outcry seen in the union battles in Chicago, Ohio or Wisconsin, in part because many residents have come to resent a police force they see as incompetent, corrupt and doing little to make their streets safe.

A police union has sued to stop the move, saying it is risking public safety on an “unproven” idea. But many residents, community groups and elected officials say that the city is simply out of money, out of options, out of patience.

“There’s no alternative, there’s no Plan B,” the City Council president, Frank Moran, said. “It’s the only option we have.”

Faced with tight budgets, many communities across the country are considering regionalizing their police departments, along with other services like firefighting, libraries and schools. Though some governments have rejected the idea for fear of increasing police response time, the police in Camden — population 77,000 — are already so overloaded they no longer respond to property crimes or car accidents that do not involve injuries.

The new effort follows a push by New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, a Republican, and Democratic leaders in the Legislature to encourage cities and towns to regionalize government services. They maintain that in a new era of government austerity, it is no longer possible for each community to offer a full buffet of government services, especially with a new law prohibiting communities from raising property taxes more than 2 percent a year.

Most municipalities have so far remained committed to local traditions, fearing a loss of community identity, but officials in Camden County say they expect others will soon feel compelled to follow the city’s example.

Camden’s budget was $167 million last year, and of that, the budget for the police was $55 million. Yet the city collected only $21 million in property taxes. It has relied on state aid to make up the difference, but the state is turning off the spigot. The city has imposed furloughs, reduced salaries and trash collection, and increased fees. But the businesses the city desperately needs to attract to generate more revenue are scared off by the crime.

“We cannot move the city forward unless we address public safety,” the mayor, Dana L. Redd, said. “This is about putting boots on the ground.”

Even union officials acknowledge that the contract is rich with expensive provisions. For example, officers earn an additional 4 percent for working a day shift, and an additional 10 percent for the shift starting at 9:30 p.m. They earn an additional 11 percent for working on a special tactical force or an anticrime patrol.

Salaries range from about $47,000 to $81,000 now, not including the shift differentials or additional longevity payments of 3 percent to 11 percent for any officer who has worked five years or more. Officials say they anticipate salaries for the new force will range from $47,000 to $87,000.

In 2009, as the economy was putting a freeze on municipal budgets even in well-off communities, the police here secured a pay increase of 3.75 percent.

And liberal sick time and family-leave policies have created an unusually high absentee rate: every day, nearly 30 percent of the force does not show up. (A typical rate elsewhere is in the single digits.)

“How do I go to the community and say ‘I’m doing everything I can to help you fight crime’ when some of my officers are working better hours than bankers?” the police chief, J. Scott Thomson, asked.

Chief Thomson, who is well regarded nationally, is expected to lead the new force. Though Camden County covers 220 square miles and includes 37 municipalities, the proposal calls for a division focused exclusively on the nine-square-mile city of Camden.

Camden, in the shadow of Philadelphia’s glimmering towers, once had a thriving industrial base — a shipyard, Campbell Soup and RCA plants along the waterfront. About 60,000 jobs were lost when those companies moved or shifted them elsewhere.

Nearly one in five of its residents is unemployed, and Broadway, once the main shopping strip, is now a canyon of abandoned buildings.

The burned-out shell of one house, a landmark built by one of the city’s founding families, has become a drug den.

This month, a heroin user there demanded that a passer-by give her some privacy to use it. “Can you show me a little respect?” she said. “I’m in a park.”

Camden reorganized its Police Department in 2008 and had a lower homicide rate for two years. Then the recession forced layoffs, reducing the force by about 100 officers.

The city has employed other crime-fighting tactics — surveillance cameras, better lighting, curfews for children — but the number of murders has risen again: at 48 so far this year, it is on pace to break the record, 58.

The murder rate so far this year is above 6 people per 10,000. By contrast, New York City’s rate is just over one-third of a person per 10,000 residents.

Many of the drug users come to Camden from elsewhere in the county, getting off the light-rail system to buy from the drug markets along what police call Heroin Highway in the neighborhood of North Camden.

“That is cocaine, that is heroin, that is crack,” Bryan Morton, a community activist, said recently as he used his car key to flick away empty bags while his 3-year-old daughter played nearby. This summer, Mr. Morton tried to set up the city’s first Little League in 15 years in nearby Pyne Poynt Park. Drug users colonized even the portable toilets set up for the players, littering them with empty glassine drug packets and needle caps.

Like other residents, he is resentful of the police union for making it so prohibitive to hire more officers. “The contract is creating a public safety crisis,” Mr. Morton said. “More officers could change the complexion of this neighborhood.”

John Williamson, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, blamed the city for creating the problems by shifting officers onto patrols, where they receive extra pay, from administrative positions. He said he was open to negotiation but believed that the city simply wanted to get rid of the contract.

“They want to go back to a 1930s atmosphere where employees and officers have absolutely no rights to redress bad management and poor working conditions,” he said.

Under labor law, the current contract will remain in effect if the new county force hires more than 49 percent of the current officers. So county officials say they will hire fewer than that. Nevertheless, they expect that the new force will eventually become unionized.

Officials say that simply adding officers will not make all the difference, given the deep suspicion many residents harbor toward the police. As the chief and his deputy drove through the Whitman Park neighborhood this month, people sitting on their stoops stood up to shake their fists and shout obscenities at them. When police officers arrested a person suspected of dealing drugs in a house on a narrow street in North Camden last year, residents set upon their cars and freed the prisoner.

The new county officers will be brought in 25 at a time, while the existing force is still in place, and trained on neighborhood streets, in the hopes that they can become part of their fabric and regain trust.

Ian K. Leonard, a member of the Camden County Board of Freeholders and the state political director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he did not blame the union officials who won the provisions. But he said he believed that the contracts were helping to perpetuate the “most dangerous city in America” title that he and others hate.

“If you add police, it will give us a fighting chance,” Mr. Leonard said. “People need a fighting chance.”

    To Fight Crime, a Poor City Will Trade In Its Police, NYT, 28.9.2012,






Rape Victim, 73,

Says She Reported Earlier Confrontation With the Suspect


September 14, 2012
The New York Times


The 73-year-old woman who was raped in Central Park said Friday that when she encountered a man masturbating in the wooded Ramble area two weeks ago, she not only took his photograph, but also reported what she saw to a park ranger.

“Some of the newspapers mentioned that after I saw the guy masturbating, I didn’t report it. I did. I reported it,” the woman said in an interview outside her apartment on the Upper West Side. “There was a park ranger who came by, and I stopped him immediately and showed him the picture. And I said: ‘Look at this picture. This guy is in the Ramble.’ And the ranger said, ‘Oh, O.K., I’ll look out for him.’ ”

The rangers, who work for the New York City parks department, are not law-enforcement officers, but assist park visitors in various ways. The ranger walked toward the Ramble, and the woman believed she had done all she was supposed to.

“I felt that was enough,” she said.

Vickie Karp, a spokeswoman for the parks department, referred questions about whether the victim approached a ranger and what rangers’ responsibilities in such situations are to the Police Department.

Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, did not return an e-mail asking if the department was aware that the woman, according to her, had alerted a park ranger after she spotted the man masturbating. Mr. Browne said earlier this week that the situation had not been reported to the police.

The man whom the woman photographed is accused of raping and beating her in a brazen daylight attack near Strawberry Fields, south and west of the Ramble, on Wednesday. The assault was preceded, the police said, by a question from the attacker: “Do you remember me?”

The suspect, David Albert Mitchell, a 42-year-old drifter with a history of violence against women, was charged with rape. He was also accused of stealing the woman’s camera and other photo equipment.

The woman said she always carried a camera in her hand while in the park.

She has been an avid bird watcher for years, drawn to the Ramble, as are so many others, by the variety and quantity of birds found there.

But she also was not afraid to train her camera on people she regarded to be breaking park rules, often snapping photographs of those who let their dogs run off-leash, bicyclists riding on park paths designated for pedestrians, and children in rowboats without parental supervision or life jackets, she said.

“No photographer walks around with a camera in a bag,” said the woman, who is an unofficial guardian of the park she cherishes. “It’s like a gun. You pick it up and shoot.”

She keeps a photography blog, which primarily chronicles her bird sightings.

But she sometimes uses her blog as a kind of wall of shame. She posted a photo of a man who let his dog run unleashed and wrote that throughout the park there were signs saying that dogs must be leashed at all times. She continued that the owner thought the rules did not apply to him.

The woman scoffed at a description of her in an article this week in The New York Times in which a park maintenance worker said he thought he knew her, describing her as “a nice old lady” who always sits on a bench.

She described herself instead as an active person who is always on the move in the park.

The woman saw an ophthalmologist on Friday. She has a fractured eye socket as well as a broken finger on her right hand. Both of her eyes were bloodshot and ringed with purplish and blue bruises on Friday, and she wore large sunglasses. She said she felt nauseated by anti-H.I.V. medication that doctors prescribed, a routine course of treatment for rape victims.

As for Mr. Mitchell, the man accused of assaulting her, his life has long been filled with violence, dating to when he was a teenager growing up in southern West Virginia. He has spent much of his adult life in prison.

In 1989, he was charged with raping and murdering an 87-year-old woman, Annie Parks, in his hometown, Jenkinjones, W.Va., but was found not guilty. Several months later, he was charged with raping and robbing a 70-year-old woman in a nearby town. He pleaded guilty and served 10 years in prison.

Mr. Mitchell was also described by investigators as a person of interest in the murder of a woman in West Virginia in 2002, according to the West Virginia State Police, but there was not enough evidence to charge him.

Mr. Mitchell was one of about a dozen siblings, and his father was a coal miner, said Rebecca Lewis, 46, who grew up near the Mitchells and whose sister married one of Mr. Mitchell’s brothers. When Mr. Mitchell was in Jenkinjones during his short stints out of prison, Ms. Lewis said, he lived on disability payments and would “tell everybody he got a ‘crazy check.’ ”


Emily S. Rueb contributed reporting.

    Rape Victim, 73, Says She Reported Earlier Confrontation With the Suspect, NYT, 14.9.2012,






In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real


August 1, 2012
The New York Times


When Miranda Pakozdi entered the Cross Assault video game tournament this year, she knew she had a slim chance of winning the $25,000 prize. But she was ready to compete, and promised fans watching online that she would train just as hard as, if not harder than, anyone else.

Over six days of competition, though, her team’s coach, Aris Bakhtanians, interrogated her on camera about her bra size, said “take off your shirt” and focused the team’s webcam on her chest, feet and legs. He leaned in over her shoulder and smelled her.

Ms. Pakozdi, 25, an experienced gamer, has said she always expects a certain amount of trash talk. But as the only woman on the team, this was too much, especially from her coach, she said. It was after she overheard Mr. Bakhtanians defending sexual harassment as part of “the fighting game community” that she forfeited the game.

Sexism, racism, homophobia and general name-calling are longstanding facts of life in certain corners of online video games. But the Cross Assault episode was the first of a series this year that have exposed the severity of the harassment that many women experience in virtual gaming communities.

And a backlash — on Twitter, in videos, on blogs and even in an online comic strip — has moved the issue beyond endless debate among gaming insiders to more public calls for change.

Executives in the $25 billion-a-year industry are taking note. One game designer’s online call for civility prompted a meeting with Microsoft executives about how to better police Xbox Live. In February, shortly after the Cross Assault tournament, LevelUp, an Internet broadcaster of gaming events, barred two commentators who made light of sexual harassment on camera and issued a formal apology, including statements from the commentators.

Even so, Tom Cannon, co-founder of the largest fighting game tournament, EVO, pulled his company’s sponsorship of the weekly LevelUp series, saying that “we cannot continue to let ignorant, hateful speech slide.”

“The nasty undercurrent in the scene isn’t a joke or a meme,” he said. “It’s something we need to fix.”

Mr. Bakhtanians, whose actions during the Cross Assault tournament were captured on video, later issued a statement in which he apologized if he had offended anyone. He also blamed “my own inability in the heat of the moment to defend myself and the community I have loved for over 15 years.”

But the issues raised by the Cross Assault episode gained more attention with Anita Sarkeesian’s campaign in May to raise $6,000 on Kickstarter to document how women are portrayed in video games. Her YouTube and Facebook pages were instantly flooded with hate-filled comments. People tried to hack her online accounts. She received violent personal threats.

Ms. Sarkeesian responded by documenting the harassment, posting online the doctored, pornographic images of herself that her detractors had created. Supporters of her efforts, aghast, donated more than $150,000, further angering her critics. A man from Ontario created an Internet game where players could “punch” her, layering bruises and cuts on her image until the screen turns red.

“The gaming industry is actually in the process of changing,” Ms. Sarkeesian said. “That’s a really positive thing, but I think there is a small group of male gamers who feel like gaming belongs to them, and are really terrified of that change happening.”

When Sam Killermann, a gamer in Austin, Tex., saw the reaction to Ms. Sarkeesian’s project, something “broke through,” he said. A few weeks ago, he began a campaign for “Gamers Against Bigotry,” asking people to sign a pledge supporting more positive behavior. The site received 1,500 pledges before it was hacked, erasing its list of names.

Like Ms. Sarkeesian, many women gamers are documenting their experiences on blogs like “Fat, Ugly or Slutty” (whose name comes from the typical insults women receive while playing against others online). It cheekily catalogs the slurs, threats and come-ons women receive while playing games like Resident Evil or Gears of War 3.

The blog publishes screenshots and voice recordings that serve as a kind of universal citation in each new controversy, called upon to settle debates or explode myths. For instance, many of the site’s recordings feature deep voices captured from the chat features of online games, debunking the widely held belief that bad behavior begins and ends with 13-year-old boys.

Jessica Hammer, a longtime player of video games and a researcher at Columbia University, said the percentage of women playing such games online ranges from 12 percent to close to half, depending on the game type. Industry statistics from the Entertainment Software Association say 47 percent of game players are women, but that number is frequently viewed as so all-encompassing as to be meaningless, bundling Solitaire alongside Diablo III.

Women report greater levels of harassment in more competitive games involving strangers. Some abandon anonymous play for safer communities or “clans” where good behavior is the norm.

In other game communities, however, sexual threats, taunts and come-ons are common, as is criticism that women’s presence is “distracting” or that they are simply trying to seek attention. Some have been offered money or virtual “gold” for online sex. Some have been stalked online and in person.

Stephen Toulouse, who was the head of enforcement for Xbox Live from 2007 until February, policed the most egregious behavior on the network, owned by Microsoft. And women were the most frequent target of harassment, he said. In that role, Mr. Toulouse experienced the wrath of angry gamers firsthand, who figured out where he lived, then called the police with false reports about trouble at his house (more than once, SWAT teams were sent).

If players were reported for bad behavior, they could be disciplined by being muted on voice chat or barred temporarily. At least once a day, Mr. Toulouse said, the company blocked a specific console’s serial number from ever accessing the network again.

But policing the two or three million players who are active on Xbox Live at any given time is hard. Just as on the broader Internet, there are people who delight in piquing anger or frustration in others, or “trolling.” For trolls, offensive language — sexist, racist, homophobic comments — are interchangeable weapons that vary with the target.

“They treat the Internet like a vast game,” where offending others scores points, Mr. Toulouse said. But the standard advice to ignore the taunts (“don’t feed the trolls”) is now, in the wake of Ms. Sarkeesian’s treatment, being accompanied by discussions about “how to kill a troll.” And many people are calling for the gaming industry to do more.

James Portnow, a game designer who has worked on titles including Call of Duty and Farmville, wrote an episode about harassment for his animated Web series “Extra Credits.” In it, the narrator says: “Right now, it’s like we gave the school bully access to the intercom system and told him that everyone would hear whatever he had to say. It’s time we take away that megaphone.”

At the end of the video, viewers were encouraged to e-mail Microsoft’s Xbox Live’s team, asking for changes to communication tools and improvements to reporting systems.

After hearing from gamers, Microsoft called Mr. Portnow and invited him to headquarters. He met with a team of executives, including a vice president, for four hours, and they discussed how Microsoft was developing better algorithms for things like automatically muting repeat offenders. Microsoft confirmed it was working toward improvements to its community tools.

“For the longest time, people have seen games as a children’s pastime, and we as an industry have stood behind this idea,” said Mr. Portnow, who will be speaking on a gaming convention panel later this month called “Ending Harassment in Gaming.”

“But that’s not true any longer,” he added. “We are a real mass medium, and we have a real effect on the culture. We have to take a step beyond this idea that nothing we could possibly do could be negative, or hurt people.”

    In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real, NYT, 1.9.2012,






Henry Hill, Mobster and Movie Inspiration, Dies at 69


June 13, 2012
The New York Times


Henry Hill, a soldier in the Luchese organized-crime family whose decision to turn federal informer, and subsequent itinerant life in and out of the federal witness protection program, inspired Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed film “Goodfellas,” died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 69 and had lived openly in Topanga, Calif., in recent years.

He had previously lived — far less openly — in Seattle; Cincinnati; Omaha; Butte, Mont.; and Independence, Ky., among many other places, as well as in the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa.

His death, in a hospital, came after a series of health problems that included heart disease and the toll of years of heavy smoking, his fiancée, Lisa Caserta, said.

A native New Yorker of half-Irish, half-Sicilian parentage, Mr. Hill was involved with the Luchese family, considered the most powerful of the city’s original five Mafia families, from his youth in the 1950s until 1980.

That year, arrested on drug-trafficking charges and facing the prospect of a long prison term, to say nothing of possible execution by his former bosses, Mr. Hill became a government witness against his past associates. His testimony in multiple trials helped send dozens of people to prison.

In Mr. Scorsese’s movie, released in 1990 and currently ranked 92nd on the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 pictures, Mr. Hill is played by Ray Liotta. The film was based on Nicholas Pileggi’s best-selling biography, “Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family,” published in 1985.

Mr. Hill wrote several books of his own, including “The Wiseguy Cookbook” (2002; with Priscilla Davis), a collection of recipes and reminiscences that includes a disquisition on the problems of finding authentic pecorino Siciliano in the flyspecks on the map to which Mr. Hill was frequently consigned.

A garrulous figure to whom the anonymity of the witness protection program was anathema — he was expelled from the program in 1987 for relentless misbehavior that included drug possession — Mr. Hill took part in several headline-making crimes during his underworld days.

Chief among them was the Lufthansa heist of 1978, in which he and confederates robbed the airline’s cargo terminal at Kennedy International Airport of $5 million in cash and nearly $1 million in jewels.

At the time, the heist was widely described as the most lucrative cash robbery in the United States. Mr. Hill, who was not prosecuted for his role in the case, testified against other participants.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Hill was also involved in a point-shaving scandal at Boston College, in which basketball players were bribed to fix games.

Although Mr. Hill said in interviews — and he gave a lot of them — that he had never killed anyone, by his own admission he knew, quite literally, where a great many bodies were buried.

“I was present when people got murdered,” he told The Advocate of Stamford, Conn., in 2010. “I dug a lot of holes.”

After leaving witness protection, Mr. Hill lived in comparative safety: most of those he feared were either dead or in prison. But given his former line of work, he remained suitably wary, moving often and adopting disguises as needed.

“If I go to the racetrack, I put a hat and glasses on, and I take my teeth out,” he told the British newspaper The Independent in 2001. “You can’t recognize me, trust me.”

Mr. Hill was a frequent guest on television talk shows, including Geraldo Rivera’s, and on Howard Stern’s radio show. He also started a Web site, goodfellahenry.com, on which he sold memorabilia and dispensed practical advice on subjects like “Best Ways to Hide a Corpse.”

But beneath Mr. Hill’s surface charm and ready self-justification lay a lifelong addiction to drugs and alcohol and, family members have said, a flash-flood propensity for violence.

Henry Hill was born in Manhattan on June 11, 1943, and raised in Brooklyn. His father, an electrician who worked on the construction of the World Trade Center, deplored the local Mafiosi and tried to impress on his son the need for a suitable vocation.

“I actually wanted to be a priest,” Henry Hill told The Chicago Tribune in 1986. “But that didn’t work out.”

He was soon seduced, he said, by the flash and dazzle of the neighborhood wiseguys, with their sleek cars, glinting rings and glittering women. At about 12, he began work as an errand boy at a local mob-run cab stand and pizzeria, where he refined his budding love of cooking. By 13 he was catering some of Brooklyn’s biggest permanent floating craps games.

He joined the Army at 17 and soon had a tidy sideline in surplus mess-hall steaks, which he sold to restaurants near his base at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina.

He was discharged several years later, he wrote, when he started a brawl and, after the sheriff arrived, elected to steal the sheriff’s car. He returned to Brooklyn and the mob, becoming a protégé of Paul Vario, a capo in the Luchese organization.

Mr. Hill’s portfolio included arson, numbers running, truck hijacking, loan sharking, assault and dealing cocaine and heroin. In the 1970s, he served four years in Lewisburg on an extortion charge.

Mr. Hill’s behavior, often intensified by drugs and alcohol, could be highly erratic. In “On the Run: A Mafia Childhood,” a joint memoir published in 2004, his son Gregg (who was 13 when the family went underground) and his daughter, Gina (who was 11), recounted their father’s hair-trigger temper.

“On my 17th birthday, he beat me within an inch of my life and then took a butcher knife to a picture of me,” Gina Hill, promoting the book on Fox News, told Greta Van Susteren.

Mr. Hill’s marriage to his first wife, Karen (portrayed by Lorraine Bracco in “Goodfellas”), ended in divorce. He is survived by their children, Gregg and Gina, both of whom have long lived under other names. Also surviving is a son from his marriage (possibly a common-law union) to his second wife, Kelly; a brother; four sisters; and four grandchildren.

For all Mr. Hill’s celebrity as an erstwhile criminal, he was never entirely rehabilitated. In 2005, while working as a chef in North Platte, Neb., he pleaded no contest to attempted possession of methamphetamine and, in a plea agreement, was sentenced to 180 days in jail. Later that year, he was sentenced to another 180 days, to be served concurrently, for threatening his wife, Kelly, and another man with a knife.

He yearned, he sometimes said, to be other than what he was. “I wish I could be more like normal people — like these people here,” he told The Yakima Herald-Republic of Washington in 2003, indicating passers-by in Leavenworth, Wash., his hometown of the moment. “I don’t know how.”

But Mr. Hill did manage to find time for ordinary pleasures. As he often said, he never missed an episode of “The Sopranos.”


Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

    Henry Hill, Mobster and Movie Inspiration, Dies at 69, NYT, 13.6.2012,






American Horror Story


June 12, 2012
The New York Times



Standing a few feet away from Jerry Sandusky, as he laughed and reminisced with friends in the front row of the courtroom, made me want to take a shower.

Just not in the Penn State locker room.

That was the gateway to horror where innocence was devoured by evil, over and over and over again, without a word being said. Just rhythmic smacking and slapping noises, silent screams, gutted psyches.

The lead witness in Sandusky’s trial — the former defensive coach at Penn State is charged with molesting 10 boys over 15 years — was a nice-looking, short-haired 28-year-old in white shirt and tie, a narrow parenthesis of a man.

He seemed confident enough when he started, but, as he talked, he grew more and more agitated, running his hand and fist over his face, sliding glances at the 68-year-old, no-neck monster Sandusky at the defense table, staring at the pictures of himself as a young boy with a big grin and bowl cut, relishing the thrilling new world of football heroes that Sandusky had opened up to him. In the photos the prosecution put up on a screen, Sandusky’s hand was usually gripped, mano morta, on the boy’s shoulder.

By the end of his testimony, he looked haunted and acted jittery. His pain seemed fresh.

The prosecution charges that Sandusky used Second Mile, his charity for disadvantaged kids, as a perverted recruiting tool, putting asterisks next to the names of boys who were fatherless and blond, making up weird contracts for boys to sign, giving them money, ostensibly for doing good schoolwork, but really as a way to keep them from fleeing — and telling.

Like pedophile priests, Sandusky was especially vile because he targeted vulnerable boys. Later, when victims finally spoke up, there was a built-in defense: those boys were trouble; you can’t believe them.

The first witness, who met Sandusky through Second Mile, said he was 13 when the nightmare started. His father was not in the picture and he didn’t get along with his stepfather, so he mostly lived with his grandmother. The attention, trips and sports-equipment presents from Sandusky, who “would act like he was my dad” in front of others, seemed heaven-sent, until hell yawned when Jerry kept putting his hand on the boy’s knee in his car.

“Basically, like, I was his girlfriend,” the witness said, adding: “It freaked me out extremely bad.”

The horror grew worse. After racquetball and basketball games, the coach would say, “Let’s get a shower.”

It would begin with a soap battle with liquid soap from the dispenser, the witness said, escalate to bear-hugging, slapping, rubbing, soaping, wrestling, maneuvering the child on the ground, kissing his thighs, forcing him to give and receive oral sex, and attempting anal sex.

“I was a little kid; he was a big guy,” the witness said, adding that he weighed “a hundred pounds, soaking wet.”

When he tried to push the slab of an older man away, he said, Sandusky would get mad and “play box” with open-hand slaps. Asked why he didn’t tell his mother, he replied bluntly that he was “too scared,” and “other than that, the other things were nice and I didn’t want to lose that” — going from unloved kid to a petted mascot for a legendary football team.

They never spoke of “the shower thing.”

“It was basically like, whatever happened there never really happened,” he said.

On road trips to bowl games, Sandusky would share a room with the boy, then covertly put a hand under the cover to grope him before he was awake. When the boy would wake up, he said, Sandusky would act as though he’d been doing sit-ups next to the bed. If the boy was recalcitrant, Jerry would threaten to send him home.

When the boys would try to get away, Sandusky grew clingy and possessive; he would even stalk them.

A string-bean who graduated from high school last week repeatedly broke down in sobs on Tuesday, recalling a similar pattern with Sandusky that would begin with blowing on his stomach. “I kind of thought he sees me as family, and this is just what his family does,” he said.

When he distanced himself, he said, Sandusky stalked him to his house and argued with his mother and grandfather about spending more time with him as he hid behind a bush. When he and his mother tried to tell authorities at his school, where Sandusky was a revered volunteer football coach who was routinely able to pull the boy out of classes and assemblies, they were met with skepticism. Sandusky, they were told, had a heart of gold.

When a wrestling coach walked in on the two lying on the floor face to face, after hours in a room with a rock-climbing wall, he accepted Sandusky’s lame excuse that they were practicing a wrestling hold because, as he told the court on Tuesday, “Jerry would never do anything inappropriate.” Adding, “I had the utmost respect for Jerry.”

It’s hard to believe that a monster like Sandusky was harbored by Happy Valley for so long. It was an open joke in Penn State football circles that you shouldn’t drop your soap in the shower when Jerry was around.

Only the boys in the shower weren’t laughing.

    American Horror Story, NYT, 12.6.2012,






She Has a Pimp’s Name Etched on Her


May 23, 2012
The New York Times


We think of branding as something ranchers do to their cattle. But it’s also what pimps do to women and girls they control across America.

Taz, a 16-year-old girl here in New York City, told me that her pimp had branded three other girls with tattoos bearing his name. When she refused the tattoo, she said, he held her down and carved his name on her back with a safety pin.

More about Taz in a moment. That kind of branding isn’t universal, but it’s very common. An alleged pimp indicted last month in Manhattan is accused of tattooing his street name on a prostitute’s neck, along with a bar code. He allegedly tattooed another prostitute with a symbol of his name on her pubic area, along with a dollar sign. In each case, the message was clear: They were his property, and they were for sale.

Such branding is a reminder that women being sold on the streets in America are — not always, but often — victims rather than criminals. That consciousness is spreading, and we are finally seeing considerable progress in tackling domestic sex trafficking.

So far, in 2012, states have passed more than 40 laws relating to human trafficking, according to Megan Fowler of Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization.

Prosecutors and police are increasingly targeting pimps and johns, and not just the women and girls who are their victims. In Manhattan, the district attorney’s office recently started a sex trafficking program and just secured its most comprehensive indictments for sex trafficking. Likewise, a federal prosecutor in Virginia brought sex trafficking charges last month against a man accused of selling a 14-year-old girl in several states.

Now President Obama is said to be planning an initiative on human trafficking. I’m hoping that he will direct the attorney general to make sex trafficking a higher federal priority and call on states to pass “safe harbor” laws that treat prostituted teenage girls as victims rather than criminals.

The other important shift is growing pressure on Backpage.com, a classified advertising Web site that dominates the sex trafficking industry. Calls for Village Voice Media, which owns Backpage, to end its links to sex trafficking have come from attorneys general from 48 states, dozens of mayors from around the country, and some 240,000 Americans who have signed a petition on Change.org.

Resolutions are pending in the Senate and House calling on Village Voice Media to get out of this trade. At least 34 advertisers have dropped Village Voice Media publications, including the flagship, Village Voice in New York City.

In its defense, Village Voice Media notes that it screens ads and cooperates with the police. That’s true, but Taz — the 16-year-old with her former pimp’s name carved into her back — told me that three-quarters of her “dates” had come from Backpage.

I met Taz at Gateways, a treatment center outside New York City. She told me that she ran away from home in New York City at the age of 14 and eventually ended up in the hands of a violent 20-year-old pimp who peddled her on Backpage.

Skeptics mostly believe that prostitutes sell sex voluntarily, while anti-trafficking advocates sometimes suggest that they are almost all forced into the trade. The truth is more complicated.

Taz wasn’t locked up, and, at times, she felt a romantic bond with her pimp. She distrusted the police — with reason, for when officers found her in December, they arrested her and locked her up for four months in juvenile detention.

Yet Taz wasn’t exactly selling sex by choice, either. She said her pimp issued his four girls a daily quota of money to earn; if they didn’t, he would beat them. They could never leave, either, Taz said, and she explained what happened when her pimp caught her trying to run away:

“I got drowned,” she recalled. “He choked me, put me in the tub, and when I woke up, I was drowning. He said he’d kill me if I left.”

Another time, Taz says, she tried to call 911. “He hit me over the head with a glass bottle,” she recalls. Then he ordered another of his girls to sweep up the broken glass.

I bet the police looked at Taz and saw an angry, defiant prostitute who hated them and didn’t want to be rescued. There was an element of truth to that. But there’s another side as well, now visible, and it underscores the importance of helping these girls rather than giving up on them. Taz is emerging as a smart, ambitious girl with dazzling potential. She loves reading and writing, and when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, she smiled a bit self-consciously.

“I’d like to be a pediatrician,” she said.

    She Has a Pimp’s Name Etched on Her, NYT, 23.7.2012,






Not Quite a Teen, Yet Sold for Sex


April 18, 2012
The New York Times


If you think sex trafficking only happens in faraway places like Nepal or Thailand, then you should listen to an expert on American sex trafficking I interviewed the other day.

But, first, wish her happy birthday. She turns 16 years old on Thursday.

She asked me to call her Brianna in this column because she worries that it could impede her plans to become a lawyer if I use her real name. Brianna, who grew up in New York City, is smart, poised and enjoys writing poetry.

One evening when she was 12 years old she got into a fight with her mom and ran out to join friends. “I didn’t want to go home, because I thought I’d get in trouble,” she said, and a friend’s older brother told her she could stay at his place.

Brianna figured she would go home in the morning — and that that would teach her mom a lesson. But when morning arrived, her new life began.

“I tried to leave, and he said, ‘you can’t go; you’re mine,’ ” Brianna recalled. He told her that he was a pimp and that she was now his property.

The pimp locked her in the room, she recalled, and alternately beat her and showed her affection. She says that he advertised her on Backpage.com, the leading Web site for sex trafficking in America today, as well as on other Web sites.

“He felt that Backpage made him the most money,” Brianna said, estimating that half of her pimp’s business came through Backpage.

Backpage accounts for about 70 percent of America’s prostitution ads (many placed by consenting adults who are not trafficked), according to AIM Group, a trade organization. Backpage cooperates with police and tries to screen out ads for underage girls, but that didn’t help Brianna.

Backpage is owned by Village Voice Media, and significant minority stakes have been held in recent years by Goldman Sachs and smaller financial firms such as Trimaran Capital Partners and Alta Communications. My research shows that representatives of Goldman, Trimaran and Alta, along with a founder of Brynwood Partners, all sat on the board of Village Voice Media, and there’s no indication that they ever protested its business aims.

When I wrote recently about this, these firms erupted in excuses and self-pity, and in some cases raced to liquidate their stakes. I was struck by the self-absorption and narcissism of Wall Street bankers viewing themselves as victims, so maybe it’s useful to hear from girls who were victimized through the company they invested in.

I met Brianna at Gateways, a treatment center for girls who have been sexually trafficked. It’s in Pleasantville, 35 miles north of New York City, on a sprawling estate overseen by the Jewish Child Care Association. Gateways is meant for girls ages 12 to 16, although it has accepted one who was just 11 years old. Virtually all the girls have been sold on Backpage, according to Lashauna Cutts, the center’s director.

Gateways has only 13 beds, and Cutts says that the need is so great that she could easily fill 1,300. “I have to turn away girls almost every day,” Cutts told me.

The public sometimes assumes that teenage girls in the sex trade are working freely, without coercion. It’s true that most aren’t physically imprisoned by pimps, but threats and violence are routine. The girls typically explain that they didn’t try to escape because of a complex web of emotions, including fear of the pimp but also a deluded affection and a measure of Stockholm syndrome.

Once, Brianna says, she looked out her window — and there was her mother on the street, crying and posting “missing” posters with Brianna’s photo. “I tried to shout to her through the window,” she remembered. But her pimp grabbed her by the hair and yanked her back. “If you shout, I’ll kill you,” she remembers him saying.

“If I tried to run, I thought he might kill me, or I’d be hurt,” she said. “And, if I went to the cops, I thought I’d be the one in trouble. I’d go to jail.”

Pimps warn girls to distrust the police, and often they’re right. Bridgette Carr, who runs a human-trafficking clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, tells of a 16-year-old girl who went missing. A family member found a photo of the girl on Backpage and alerted authorities. Police raided the pimp’s motel room and “rescued” the girl — by handcuffing her and detaining her for three weeks.

That mind-set has to change. Police and prosecutors must target pimps and johns, not teenage victims. Trafficked girls deserve shelters, not jails, and online emporiums like Backpage should stop abetting pimps. Sex trafficking is just as unacceptable in America as in Thailand or Nepal.

And let’s all wish our expert, Brianna, a joyous “Sweet Sixteen” birthday!

    Not Quite a Teen, Yet Sold for Sex, NYT, 18.4.2012,






Even as Violent Crime Falls, Killing of Officers Rises


April 9, 2012
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — As violent crime has decreased across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged: rising numbers of police officers are being killed.

According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 72 officers were killed by perpetrators in 2011, a 25 percent increase from the previous year and a 75 percent increase from 2008.

The 2011 deaths were the first time that more officers were killed by suspects than car accidents, according to data compiled by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The number was the highest in nearly two decades, excluding those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

While a majority of officers were killed in smaller cities, 13 were killed in cities of 250,000 or more. New York City lost two officers last year. On Sunday, four were wounded by a gunman in Brooklyn, bringing to eight the number of officers shot in the city since December.

“We haven’t seen a period of this type of violence in a long time,” said Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly of the New York Police Department.

While the F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials cannot fully explain the reasons for the rise in officer homicides, they are clear about the devastating consequences.

“In this law enforcement job, when you pin this badge on and go out on calls, when you leave home, you ain’t got a promise that you will come back,” said Sheriff Ray Foster of Buchanan County, Va. Two of his deputies were killed in March 2011 and two wounded — one of them paralyzed — by a man with a high-powered rifle.

“That was 80 percent of my day shift,” he said.

After a spate of killings in early 2011, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asked federal authorities to work with local police departments to try to come up with solutions to the problem.

The F.B.I., which has tracked officer deaths since 1937, paid for a study conducted by John Jay College that found that in many cases the officers were trying to arrest or stop a suspect who had previously been arrested for a violent crime.

That prompted the F.B.I. to change what information it will provide to local police departments, the officials said. Starting this year, when police officers stop a car and call its license plate into the F.B.I.’s database, they will be told whether the owner of the vehicle has a violent history. Through the first three months of this year, the number of police fatalities has dropped, though it is unclear why.

Some law enforcement officials believe that techniques pioneered by the New York Police Department over the past two decades and adopted by other departments may have put officers at greater risk by encouraging them to conduct more street stops and to seek out and confront suspects who seem likely to be armed. In New York and elsewhere, police officials moved more officers into crime-ridden areas.

“This technique has become more popular across the country as smaller departments have followed the larger cities and tried to prevent crime,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Unlike several decades ago, there is this expectation that police matter and that police can make a difference.”

Commissioner Kelly said, “We try to put those officers where there is the most potential for violence.” However, he pointed out that most of the officers who have been shot in New York since December were not part of a proactive police deployment but were responding to emergencies.

Some argue that the rise in violence is linked to the tough economy. With less money, some states are releasing prisoners earlier; police departments, after years of staffing increases, have been forced to make cutbacks.

“A lot of these killings aren’t happening in major urban areas,” said James W. McMahon, chief of staff for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “One of the concerns we are looking at is that a number of officers are being laid off or furloughed or not replaced.”

The police chief in Camden, N.J., J. Scott Thomson, whose force of 400 was cut by nearly half last year because of financing issues, said that having fewer officers on the street “makes it that much more difficult to create an environment in which criminals do not feel as emboldened to assault another person, let alone a law enforcement officer.”

The murder of a veteran officer last April in Chattanooga, Tenn., was typical of many of the 2011 episodes.

Sgt. Tim Chapin, a veteran nearing retirement, rushed to provide backup to officers who had responded to reports of a robbery outside a pawnshop and were under fire. Sergeant Chapin got out of his car and chased the fleeing suspect, who had been convicted of armed robbery. During the pursuit, the sergeant was fatally shot in the head.

As part of the F.B.I.’s efforts to prevent officer deaths, the bureau trains thousands of officers each year, highlighting shootings like the one in Chattanooga to teach officers about situations in which they are most vulnerable. Those situations are typically pursuits, traffic stops and arrests, said Michelle S. Klimt, a top F.B.I. official at its Criminal Justice Information Services Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., who oversees officer training.

“Every stop can be potentially fatal, so we are trying to make sure the officers are ready and prepared every single day they go out,” Ms. Klimt said. “We try and teach that every day you go out, you are going to be encountered with deadly force by someone trying to kill you.”


Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Joseph Goldstein from New York.

John H. Cushman Jr. contributed reporting from Washington.

    Even as Violent Crime Falls, Killing of Officers Rises, NYT, 9.4.2012,






Playing the Violence Card


April 5, 2012
The New York Times


EVER since the culture wars of the 1980s, Americans have been familiar with “the race card” — an epithet used to discredit real and imagined cries of racism. Less familiar, however, is an equally cynical rhetorical tactic that I call “the violence card.”

Here’s how it works. When confronted with an instance of racially charged violence against a black person, a commentator draws attention to the fact that there is much more black-on-black violence than white-on-black violence. To play the violence card — as many criminal-justice advocates have done since the Rodney King police brutality case of the early 1990s — is to suggest that black people should worry more about the harm they do to themselves and less about how victimized they are by others.

The national outrage over the Trayvon Martin case has prompted some recent examples. Last week, the journalist Juan Williams wrote in The Wall Street Journal of the “tragedy” of Trayvon’s death but wondered “what about all the other young black murder victims? Nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people.” During a debate about the case on Sunday on an ABC News program, the commentator George F. Will argued that the “root fact” is that “about 150 black men are killed every week in this country — and 94 percent of them by other black men.”

For Mr. Williams, Mr. Will and countless others playing the violence card, the real issue has little to do with racist fears or police practices — even though those would seem to be the very issues at hand.

It’s true that black-on-black violence is an exceptionally grave problem. But this does not explain the allure of the violence card, which perpetuates the reassuring notion that violence against black people is not society’s concern but rather a problem for black people to fix on their own. The implication is that the violence that afflicts black America reflects a failure of lower-class black culture, a breakdown of personal responsibility, a pathological trait of a criminally inclined subgroup — not a problem with social and institutional roots that needs to be addressed through collective effort well beyond the boundaries of black communities.

But perhaps the large scale of black-on-black violence justifies playing the violence card? Not if you recall how Americans responded to high levels of white-on-white violence in the past.

Consider the crime waves of 1890 to 1930, when millions of poor European immigrants came to America only to be trapped in inner-city slums, suffering the effects of severe economic inequality and social marginalization. Around the turn of the century, the Harvard economist William Ripley described the national scene: “The horde now descending upon our shores is densely ignorant, yet dull and superstitious withal; lawless, with a disposition to criminality.” But the solution, Ripley argued, was not stigma, isolation and the promotion of fear. “They are fellow passengers on our ship of state,” he wrote, “and the health of the nation depends upon the preservation of the vitality of the lower classes.”

As a spokesman for saving white immigrant communities from the violence within, Ripley was part of a national progressive movement led by Jane Addams, the influential social worker of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the face of grisly, gang-related youth shootings — “duplicated almost every morning,” Addams wrote — she insisted that everyone from the elite to community organizers to police officers had a part to play.

She and other progressives mobilized institutional resources to save killers and the future victims of killers. Violent white neighborhoods were flooded with social workers, police reformers and labor activists committed to creating better jobs and building a social welfare net. White-on-white violence fell slowly but steadily in proportion to economic development and crime prevention.

In almost every way the opposite situation applied to black Americans. Instead of provoking a steady dose of compassionate progressivism, crime and violence in black communities fueled the racist belief that, as numerous contemporaries stated, blacks were their “own worst enemies” — an early version of the violence card. Black people were “criminalized” through various institutions and practices, whether Southern chain gangs, prison farms, convict lease camps and lynching bees or Northern anti-black neighborhood violence and race riots.

Racial criminalization has continued to this day, stigmatizing black people as dangerous, legitimizing or excusing white-on-black violence, conflating crime and poverty with blackness, and perpetuating punitive notions of “justice” — vigilante violence, stop-and-frisk racial profiling and mass incarceration — as the only legitimate responses.

But the past does not have to be the future. The violence card is a cynical ploy that will only contribute to more fear, more black alienation and more violence. Rejecting its skewed logic and embracing a compassionate progressive solution for black crime is our best hope for saving lives and ensuring that young men like Trayvon Martin do not die in vain.


Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research

in Black Culture at the New York Public Library,

is the author of “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime,

and the Making of Modern Urban America.”

    Playing the Violence Card, NYT, 5.4.2012,






Iraqi Immigrants in California Town

Fear a Hate Crime in a Woman’s Killing


March 27, 2012
The New York Times


EL CAJON, Calif. — Shaima Alawadi’s family says they found the first note taped to the front door of their house on a quiet suburban street here. It said: “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist,” according to her 15-year-old son, Mohammed.

Ms. Alawadi’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, says he wanted to call the police. But his wife said no, insisting the note was only a child’s prank. Like many others in the neighborhood, the couple were immigrants from Iraq. In 17 years in the United States, they had been called terrorists before, he said.

But last Wednesday, Ms. Alawadi was found in the family’s dining room by her 17-year-daughter, lying unconscious in a puddle of blood with a severe head wound. Nearby lay another threatening note, similar to the one the family found a week earlier.

Ms. Alawadi, 32, died three days later. The police caution against jumping to conclusions, saying they are still trying to determine whether she was targeted because of her religion or ethnicity, calling that just one possibility.

“At this point, we are not calling it a hate crime,” said Lt. Mark Coit of the El Cajon police. “We haven’t made that determination. We are calling it an isolated incident, because we don’t have any evidence of anything similar going on at this point.”

Whatever the police eventually determine, the crime has shattered the sense of security for Iraqi immigrants in El Cajon, exposing cultural tensions and distrust that have often simmered just below the surface since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Hanif Mohebi, director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that many Muslim women in the area were worried that Ms. Alawadi had been targeted because she wore a headscarf in public, as many observant Muslim women do.

“The majority of the community that wears scarves are concerned,” Mr. Mohebi said. He cautioned against a rush to judgment before the police had finished investigating. Still, he added, “the community has gone through some hate crimes before, and the assumption the people have is that they’re going through one now.”

Two decades ago, El Cajon, just northeast of San Diego, was largely white and English-speaking. But as wars in their homelands pushed more and more Iraqis and others to emigrate, the Middle Eastern population here has exploded. El Cajon now houses one of the largest Iraqi communities in the country. Middle Eastern groceries and restaurants dot Main Street, while on the sidewalks, many families stroll by speaking in Arabic.

Ms. Alawadi and her husband moved to the United States from Saudi Arabia in 1995 after fleeing Iraq during the first gulf war. They then had five children, and for the most part, Mr. Alhimidi said, their neighbors here made them feel welcome.

Still, even before this month, he was already familiar with the kind of language he says was on the notes left at his house.

“Some neighbors, I say ‘hi’ to them, and they just turn away,” Mr. Alhimidi said in Arabic, with his son Mohammed translating. “More than 95 percent of the time, I feel welcome. But once in a while, people shout at you. They shout ‘terrorist,’ or ‘go back to your country.’ ”

Most people in town lamented Ms. Alawadi’s killing as a tragedy. Janet Ilko, a middle school teacher, said the news had come as a shock to students.

“It was upsetting to everyone,” Ms. Ilko, 47, said. “Our community is very close-knit. Our students get along very well. People have been here a long time.”

But tension between the newcomers from the Middle East and some of the town’s other residents was also readily apparent on Main Street, even this week. One woman, 30, who was at a park with her children and refused to give her name, called the city’s Iraqi residents “territorial,” adding, “maybe because we are at war with them.” She said her own background was Mexican, though she had grown up in Southern California.

That tension extends to non-Muslims as well.

“I’ve lived here for 32 years, and I’ve been told many times to go back to my country,” said Sascha Atta, an immigrant from Afghanistan. “Here in El Cajon, most of the Iraqis are not even Muslim, they are Christian, but people don’t know the difference.”

One of those Iraqi Christians is Lara Yalda, 18, who fled the country with her family in 2004, living in Syria for six years before coming to El Cajon, where she is now in high school. She said that last year one teacher told all of the Iraqi students to go back to their country, complaining that they took welfare and other money from the United States. That teacher does not teach Iraqi students anymore but still works at the school, she said.

Ms. Yalda said Ms. Alawadi’s death frightened her.

“Yeah, I’m scared,” Ms. Yalda said. “I feel sad, because here it is a free country, and there is no reason to kill her. She has a family. So why did they kill her? ”

The killing does not make sense to Ms. Alawadi’s son Mohammed either.

“There’s only three people that know what happened,” he said. “God, my mom and the guy who did it.”

    Iraqi Immigrants in California Town Fear a Hate Crime in a Woman’s Killing, NYT, 27.3.2012,






Originated ‘Broken Windows’ Policing Strategy


March 2, 2012
The New York Times


James Q. Wilson, a wide-ranging social scientist whose “broken windows” theory of law enforcement laid the groundwork for crime reduction programs in New York, Los Angeles and other cities, died on Friday in Boston. He was 80.

The cause was complications of leukemia, his son, Matthew, said.

Mr. Wilson, who taught government at Harvard for more than two decades, was the author of disquisitions on politics, the family, the nature of bureaucracies, virtue and vice that both countered and steered intellectual trends.

But he was best known for his research on the behavior of police officers and lawbreakers. Probably his most influential theory holds that when the police emphasize the maintenance of order rather than the piecemeal pursuit of rapists, murderers and carjackers, concentrating on less threatening though often illegal disturbances in the fabric of urban life like street-corner drug-dealing, graffiti and subway turnstile-jumping, the rate of more serious crime goes down.

Such a strategy became a cornerstone of the “quality of life” crime-reduction program in the 1990s of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and his first police commissioner, William J. Bratton.

Mr. Bratton had earlier adopted techniques complementary to Mr. Wilson’s ideas. They included more officers on foot patrol and a system known as CompStat that held police captains accountable on a daily basis for spikes in crime and disorder in their precincts.

During Mr. Giuliani’s tenure, from 1994 to 2001, the rate of violent felonies plunged, amplifying his reputation as a crime-fighter — he had been a prosecutor — and increasing his popularity.

Mr. Bratton left New York to become commissioner in Los Angeles, where crime also fell.

But Mr. Wilson’s theory and its application have had their critics. Some accused Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Bratton of waging an overly aggressive campaign against panhandlers and the so-called squeegee men, who confronted motorists. And some researchers have questioned the efficacy of the program, saying that other factors, including the waning of the crack epidemic, were more responsible for the declining crime rate than the “broken windows” approach. The theory was first espoused by Mr. Wilson and George L. Kelling, a criminologist who had studied foot patrols in Newark, in 1982 in an article in the magazine The Atlantic.

The approach is psychologically based. It proceeds from the presumption, supported by research, that residents’ perceptions of the safety of their neighborhood is based not on whether there is a high rate of crime, but on whether the neighborhood appears to be well tended — that is, whether its residents hold it in mutual regard, uphold the locally accepted obligations of civility, and outwardly disdain the flouting of those obligations.

In Mr. Wilson’s metaphor — Mr. Kelling gave Mr. Wilson credit for it — when a window is broken and someone fixes it, that is a sign that disorder will not be tolerated. But “one unrepaired broken window,” they wrote, “is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.”

The authors argued that acts of criminality are fostered by such an “untended” environment, and that the solution is thus to tend it by being intolerant of the smallest illegalities. The wish “to ‘decriminalize’ disreputable behavior that ‘harms no one’ — and thus remove the ultimate sanction the police can employ to maintain neighborhood order — is, we think, a mistake,” Mr. Wilson and Mr. Kelling wrote. “Arresting a single drunk or a single vagrant who has harmed no identifiable person seems unjust, and in a sense it is. But failing to do anything about a score of drunks or a hundred vagrants may destroy an entire community.”

“A particular rule that seems to make sense in the individual case makes no sense when it is made a universal rule and applied to all cases,” they added. “It makes no sense because it fails to take into account the connection between one broken window left untended and a thousand broken windows.”

Mr. Bratton said in an interview on Friday that he had become interested in the “broken windows” theory independently, when he was working in Boston, where residents living in high-crime areas told him that what they worried most about was prostitution and graffiti.

“The importance of what Wilson and Kelling wrote was the emphasis not only on crime committed against people but the emphasis on crimes committed against the community, neighborhoods,” Mr. Bratton said.

James Quinn Wilson was born on May 27, 1931, in Denver, and grew up mostly in Long Beach, Calif. His father, Claude, was a salesman; his mother, Marie, a homemaker.

He graduated from Redlands University in the San Bernardino Valley, east of Los Angeles, then served in the Navy during the Korean War (not in combat). He then pursued advanced degrees at the University of Chicago, where he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science.

He arrived at Harvard in 1961. He later taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at Pepperdine University.

Mr. Wilson, who lived in North Andover, Mass., for the past three years after more than 20 years in Southern California, met his wife, the former Roberta Evans, in high school; they married in 1952.

Besides his son, Matthew, he is survived by his wife; their daughter, Annie Gilbert; a sister, Diane Gray; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Wilson’s first book, “Negro Politics” (1960), was among the first serious sociological analyses of the role of blacks in urban politics. Since then, in dozens of articles for publications that included Commentary, The Atlantic and The New York Times Magazine, as well as in several books, he explored individual behavior and its relationship to institutions and to society as a whole.

In “Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It” (1989), he analyzed the inner workings of agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as prisons and schools, pointing out the general disconnect between the people at the top who make the policies and the people at the bottom who do the work.

The largest percentage of his oeuvre, however, was devoted to the issue of crime. An early book, “The Varieties of Police Behavior,” led to an invitation to serve on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Crime and the Administration of Justice. On the issue of crime and punishment, as in other areas, Mr. Wilson was an avowed conservative, arguing, for example, that strict punishment for criminals, including the death penalty, has a deterrent effect on crime.

But even his critics acknowledged that he was less an ideologue than a scientist; he supported the war in Iraq and wrote that marriage should be defined by the union of one man and one woman, but he dismissed criticism of Darwin and suspicion of the theory of evolution.

“I know my political ideas affect what I write,” he acknowledged in a 1998 interview in The Times, “but I’ve tried to follow the facts wherever they land. Every topic I’ve written about begins as a question. How do police departments behave? Why do bureaucracies function the way they do? What moral intuitions do people have? How do courts make their decisions? What do blacks want from the political system? I can honestly say I didn’t know the answers to those questions when I began looking into them.”


Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

    Originated ‘Broken Windows’ Policing Strategy, NYT, 2.3.2012,






Mystery Witness in Rutgers Case Tells of Webcam Unease


March 2, 2012
The New York Times


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — As he and his new boyfriend lay naked on a bed in a nondescript dormitory room at Rutgers University, the man sensed he was being spied on.

“I just happened to glance over,” the man, now a nervous and heavily shielded star witness, told a courtroom here on Friday. “It just caught my eye that there was, you know, a camera lens looking directly at me.”

As he left the room that night, he testified, a group of students were standing nearby, joking and looking at him in a way that unsettled him. When they met again two nights later, he heard students laughing outside.

He wanted to see his new boyfriend again — they had been exchanging e-mails for weeks now, but had had only three dates, and were texting furiously in the hopes of setting up another one. But he was not sure he would return to the dorm.

“I felt a little uneasy about it,” he said.

He never saw his new boyfriend, Tyler Clementi, again. Mr. Clementi, an 18-year-old student at Rutgers, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge the next evening, Sept. 22, 2010, after posting a message on Facebook that ended, “sorry.”

It was two weeks later, when prosecutors went to his house, that the man learned that the camera, on Mr. Clementi’s roommate’s computer, had been used to view them as they had sex.

The roommate, Dharun Ravi, is on trial in Superior Court on charges that he set up the camera and encouraged others to watch its images of the men having sex. Prosecutors have charged him with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and hindering apprehension, after, they say, he tried to cover up his Twitter messages to friends encouraging them to watch. He is not charged in Mr. Clementi’s death.

The man was the most anticipated witness in the trial — the small windowless courtroom in the Middlesex County Courthouse had been packed with spectators and reporters for three days with the promise of his testimony.

He is identified in court documents only as “M.B.,” and before he came in the room the judge warned the journalists assembled that they could not record or photograph the man.

M.B., who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, entered with his shoulders hunched, seeming to twitch as he walked, as if he was on trial rather than a witness. He had close cropped hair and a bit of a 5 o’clock shadow, He wore a blue and white striped shirt, more casual than the well-tailored suits of Mr. Ravi and his friends who have testified. In the courtroom he did not look, as Mr. Ravi’s friends have described him, “scruffy” or “shady.”

He testified that he and Mr. Clementi met in an online chat room for gay men in early August 2010, then exchanged instant messages and text messages for several weeks. Mr. Clementi, an accomplished violinist, told the man he was going to Rutgers early, before the regular start of the fall semester, for a music program. They agreed that it made sense to wait until Mr. Clementi was at Rutgers to meet in person.

“We were just talking, getting to know each other at that time,” he said. “I was comfortable, he was comfortable, until he was coming closer to actually meet in person.”

Their first date was a few weeks later, on Thursday, Sept. 16. They met twice more, on the next Sunday and Tuesday, before Mr. Clementi, who had only recently told his parents he was gay, went to the bridge and committed suicide.

At first the room seemed like a normal dorm room, he testified.

But then, he told a prosecutor, “I had just glanced over my shoulder and I had noticed there was a webcam that was faced toward the direction of the bed, and I just thought it was kind of strange. Just being in a compromising position and seeing a camera lens — I guess it just stuck out to me that if you were sitting at a desk using the computer, that camera wouldn’t be facing that direction, it would be facing the person at the computer.”

The man was the witness whom both the prosecution and the defense had been waiting for. To prosecutors, M.B. is a victim of harassment based on sexual orientation — a proxy of sort for Mr. Clementi.

To the defense, M.B. was evidence that Mr. Ravi was not motivated by bigotry but by suspicion — of an older man who appeared out of place among the college freshmen in the dorm. Mr. Ravi’s lawyers contend that he set up the webcam because he was afraid that the man would steal his valuable computer equipment.

    Mystery Witness in Rutgers Case Tells of Webcam Unease, NYT, 2.3.2012,






Police Arrest Man in Carjacking of WWII Vet


March 2, 2012
The New York Times


DETROIT (AP) — A man suspected in connection with the daylight attack and carjacking of an 86-year-old World War II veteran at a busy Detroit gas station was arrested Friday, police said.

Detroit police spokesman Sgt. Eren Stephens said the unidentified 21-year-old was apprehended about 1:30 a.m. Wayne County prosecutors said they haven't yet received a warrant request.

A message was left Friday for the victim, Aaron Brantley. Brantley told The Associated Press last Saturday that nobody helped him right after he was knocked down and his car was stolen Feb. 22 at the station on the city's west side. A surveillance video shows Brantley crawling and seeking help, and several people walking or driving by him.

"People were passing me just like I wasn't there. ... I was crawling and they just walk by me like I'm not there," he said.

Brantley said as he approached the building, he asked a woman to open the door for him. He said at first it appeared she wasn't going to but she did and then kept walking. He found it distressing that nobody helped him.

"Any time a person is crawling on the ground, you know something happened to them," he said.

Police also released video showing Brantley paying the cashier before the carjacking. A man who authorities say is the suspect looked at Brantley and left.

Brantley, who retired after a 31-year career as a welder at Chrysler, said he was coming home from a morning Bible study. His said he recently bought the car, a Chrysler 200, to replace another car that had been stolen.

Gas station manager Haissam Jaber said he was glad the surveillance videos were helpful in the investigation. He hopes the arrest — along with the cameras inside and outside the station — will make people think "more than once" about committing crime.

    Police Arrest Man in Carjacking of WWII Vet, NYT, 2.3.2012,






In a Texas Home, 11 Children Found in Grim Conditions


February 22, 2012
The New York Times


DAYTON, Tex. — A 2-year-old girl was tied up in a restraint attached to her bed. Nearby another 2-year-old child, a boy, was restrained to his bed, too. A third child, a blind 5-year-old girl who appeared to be in a daze, was tied up on a filthy mattress. An 11-year-old boy had a black eye and finger marks on his forearms, and one of his teeth had been knocked out.

They were among the 11 children found in a home in this rural town of about 7,200 people 40 miles northeast of Houston, their plight described in a court document filed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the state’s child welfare agency. They were discovered last month when a Dayton police sergeant and an investigator with the child welfare agency visited the house in response to a report made to the police alleging physical abuse of the children.

Eight of the children were found inside a 10-foot-by-10-foot back bedroom. Though it was about 2 p. m., the room was dark because the window was covered with plywood and there was no light fixture, according to the court filing. Three of the eight children in the room were restrained to their beds at the time the authorities visited. One child told the authorities that the children were placed in restraints while they slept at night and sometimes during the day when they were awake, and another child said they were kept in the room for up to three days at a time. The harness-style cloth restraints, tied around the chests of some of the children and attached to their small beds, were so tight that they had only about one or two feet to maneuver. None of the older children attended schools, the court papers said.

Two of the children, infant boys 4 months old and 6 months old, were taken to Texas Children’s Hospital because paramedics called to the scene were concerned they were showing signs of pneumonia and “failure to thrive,” the court filing said. Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the child welfare agency, said all 11 of the children had been removed from the home and placed in foster care. The children ranged from infants to 11-year-olds.

No criminal charges have been filed against any of the adults who own the home or live there, and no arrests have been made. The police sergeant who visited the house, Doug O’Quinn, said the Dayton Police Department was investigating, along with the Liberty County district attorney’s office.

“I would think any time any normal person or any investigator enters a room with children being restrained it would be startling to them,” Sergeant O’Quinn said. “I wouldn’t say it was overly disorderly or filthy. The children had movement. It was just restricted. This is something we take seriously. We are going to present this to a grand jury.”

Most of the children removed from the house were the grandchildren of a woman identified in the legal papers as Tanda Marsh-Smith, who lives there with her husband, Odice Smith. Nobody answered the door on Wednesday afternoon. There were two signs in the living room window by the front door: “No Smoking” and “No Trespassing.” A skateboard was propped up next to the door.

The children appeared to live in a chaotic environment. One of Ms. Marsh-Smith’s adult children, Mark E. Marsh III, 34, is a registered sex offender who lists the house as his address but was not there at the time the children were removed, the court filing stated. Two 16-year-old boys who ran away from different foster homes were found at the house with a stolen car. The document said that Ms. Marsh-Smith was reported to have had six children removed from her home in Michigan in the early 1980s and had been accused in more recent years of physical and sexual abuse of her grandchildren.

The court document states that none of the adults in the home thought there was anything wrong with restraining the children. “All adults in the home were interviewed, in which none of them felt like this was a problem, and stated that they tie the children up for safety,” the legal papers said.

Like the other homes alongside it on a quiet residential street, the red-brick house where the children lived has a large front lawn, a long driveway and a spacious backyard. Nearly two dozen people appeared to be living in the home at the time the authorities visited. The court document said that at least 10 adults were in the house, in addition to the children. Three large prefabricated structures, including one red barn-style shed, had recently been placed in the backyard and were occupied by people at night, neighbors said.

“I was shocked,” said a neighbor, Wayne Hardin, 59, who is the pastor of Grace Community Baptist Church in Dayton. “The people mainly stayed in the house. They have not had a good relationship with neighbors at all. If you walk on their sidewalk, they consider that their property, and they’ll go out there and holler at people.”

    In a Texas Home, 11 Children Found in Grim Conditions, NYT, 22.2.2012,






More Human Remains Are Found on Long Island


February 18, 2012
The New York Times


Another set of human remains was discovered in a wooded area of eastern Long Island that has become a dumping ground for bodies over the years, the authorities said on Saturday.

The question now is whether the skeletal remains, found on Friday evening by a man walking his dog on a trail in Manorville, represent an isolated death or is the latest clue in a continuing serial-killer case that is confronting investigators in Suffolk County.

“At this time, we cannot say if the remains are connected to any other cases,” a spokeswoman for the police said on Saturday. “The scene will be processed and re-evaluated,” he said, but that they were “at the preliminary stages of the investigation”

The spokeswoman said investigators “cannot yet determine the age or gender of the remains.”

The police said a forensic anthropologist from the New York City medical examiner’s office would assist the Suffolk authorities in removing and evaluating the bones, which they said were believed to have been in the woods for several years based on the degree of plant growth around them.

Investigators are trying to solve the killings of 10 people whose remains have been found since December 2010, spread amid the brush of Jones Beach Island, which is about 45 miles west of Manorville.

A serial killer is believed to be responsible for the deaths of four of those victims — all women who had worked as prostitutes.

Four other sets of human remains found off Ocean Parkway, on Jones Beach Island, included body parts from two victims who had been dismembered and whose torsos were discovered in Manorville, about four miles from where the newest remains were discovered, the authorities said.

Most of the remains of one of those victims, Jessica Taylor, 20, were found by a woman walking her dog off Halsey Manor Road in Manorville, shortly after Ms. Taylor disappeared in July 2003. She had worked as a prostitute in Washington, and briefly in New York. Her head and hands, were discovered in March off Ocean Parkway, about a mile from the location of the bodies of the other four women.

In November 2000, most of the body of another victim — who has not been identified but whom detectives refer to as Jane Doe No. 6 — was discovered in the same heavily wooded area of Manorville where Ms. Taylor’s torso was discovered.

The head, hands and other remains of Jane Doe No. 6 were found in April off Ocean Parkway.

It was early evening on Friday when Matthew J. Samuel, 30, discovered the bones in Manorville. This was about 350 yards from his house in an area he had passed many, many times.

He was cutting through the woods after he had been out with his German short-haired pointer, Molly, searching for the shed antlers of deer, when he noticed “the top, cranial portion of the skull,” bleached white from exposure. “I leaned in and looked a little closer and saw it was a skull from the seam in the back,” said Mr. Samuel, a welder, who is studying education. “And then I looked closer and it was human remains.”

He went home, called his older brother and a cousin and a friend. The four of them returned to the site with a flashlight. They saw the outline of a body seemingly face up, with a foot-high blueberry bush growing through it.

“We saw the pelvis bones sticking out,” said Mr. Samuel.

The body, partly buried, was wrapped in a worn bedsheet. The sheet appeared to be covered in a black plastic garbage bag and wrapped with duct tape. Mr. Samuel did not see shoes. “I think it was barefoot,” he said.

They called the police from there, he said, adding “I’m sure whoever it was, was missed for a while,” he said.

    More Human Remains Are Found on Long Island, NYT, 18.2.2012,






19 Years and £1 Million Later, a Past Catches Up


February 14, 2012
The New York Times


OZARK, Mo. — As she listened to the outlandish story pour out, slightly slurred, from her new husband’s mouth, Jessica King dismissed the tale of his family’s two-decade run from the law as the product of an overactive imagination and too many drinks.

The couple had been married two months, and now Lee King was telling her that his father, a balding local cable technician, was actually an international fugitive who had staged one of England’s most infamous bank heists.

A few weeks later, on Dec. 28, all doubts vanished. That night, she said her father-in-law appeared at the newlyweds’ home, grabbed her arm and, leaning in to fix his eyes on hers, warned her to keep quiet.

“I know you know,” she said he told her in his native British accent. “I will kill you. I will bloody kill you.”

A day earlier, Ms. King, who recounted these conversations in an interview, had been shocked to discover that her husband’s claims might in fact be true.

Sitting at a computer with two friends — who confirmed her account — she discovered an article about a famous 1993 robbery in England with a picture of the suspect, an armored car driver who made off with the equivalent of $1.5 million and disappeared with his wife and infant son, Lee, into the United States.

The man in the photo, identified as Edward Maher, was younger and thinner, with a full head of dark hair, but he was unmistakably her father-in-law, whom she knew as Michael.

After almost 20 years as a wanted man in England, the suspect the British tabloids called “Fast Eddie” saw his restless run from the law come to an unexpected end last week, his tale of international intrigue emerging in startling contrast to his ordinary life in this mostly rural corner of southwest Missouri.

In a few frenetic days the case was cracked, nearly botched, then brought to an unlikely close. Mr. Maher, who had prepared to flee after being accidentally tipped off about the investigation by a police officer, agreed to be taken into custody and acknowledged his real identity, according to court documents.

The distance between his worlds was brought into sharp relief when the Ozark police tried to notify their British counterparts, only to discover that their phone plan did not allow overseas dialing.

After years of tight-lipped caution, Mr. Maher, 56, was brought down by his talkative son, the 22-year-old Mr. King, who told his wife, she said, that he had been trained to lie as a child to protect the family. Despite that, several people say, Mr. King repeatedly shared his most carefully guarded secret, one so unbelievable that for years no one took him at his word.

That changed on Feb. 6 when Ms. King, increasingly terrified of her husband as well as his father, tipped off the local police about the family.

In an interview Mr. King denied his wife’s version of events, saying he learned about his family’s past only last week when his parents showed him his real birth certificate. That, he said, is how he learned his real last name was Brett, his mother’s last name, and not — as is tattooed on both his and his wife’s wrists — King.

But in the hours after learning that his father’s secret had been revealed, Mr. King sent his wife a barrage of irate text messages accusing her of telling the police, “things only you know.” In one of the messages, which she shared to support her story, he lamented his own role in exposing his father. “It’s my fault,” he wrote.

The crime was as carefully executed as the escape. On Jan. 22, 1993, the authorities say, Mr. Maher disappeared along with an armored car he was driving for Securicor. It was found abandoned a half mile from Lloyds Bank in Felixstowe, on England’s east coast, emptied of £1 million in bills and coins.

His wife and 3-year-old son had already left for the United States. The money was never found.

Once in the country the family moved constantly, Mr. King said, with stops in New Hampshire, Colorado, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Mr. Maher worked regular jobs, including eight years at Nielsen, the television ratings company. His wife, Deborah Brett, who introduced herself variously as Sarah or Barbara (sometimes she couldn’t seem to keep the names straight), raised the two children, including a second son, Mark, who was born in the United States and is now a teenager.

By all accounts, the family was private and unusually tight knit. Mr. Maher was quiet, with a stern demeanor and a fondness for racial slurs. He seemed to intimidate his family, particularly his doting wife. They spoke rarely, and then only vaguely, about England.

About five years ago the family moved to Ozark. As the fastest-growing city in the state, swelling from 4,000 to 18,000 in two decades as it became a popular bedroom community for Springfield, it was an easy place for a newcomer to go unnoticed.

Living in a drab housing complex, the family showed few signs of wealth. Mr. Maher worked as a broadband technician at Suddenlink, a cable company. Ms. Brett cleaned apartments for extra income.

Mr. Maher filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Almost $35,000 in debt — more than he earned in a year — he listed assets worth just $3,655, including a Mercury Mountaineer with more than 250,000 miles on it. (Ms. Brett once told her son’s fiancée that the family used to have more money, but lost it in the stock market.)

The family, however, found unexpected fortune last September when Mr. King won $100,000 on a scratch lottery ticket, according to the Missouri Lottery.

Meanwhile the celebrated case of Fast Eddie had gone cold in England. A story last month in The Ipswich Star, marking the start of his 20th year on the run, suggested that it was unlikely that the police would ever catch “the man who committed the perfect crime.”

Even though no one seemed to be on the tail of his father, a growing number of aggrieved former girlfriends were tracking Mr. King. Each had similar complaints: he was controlling, physically abusive and an almost pathological liar.

Though he told each, early in the relationship, that his family was here illegally, his explanations varied.

“He told me that his dad was an assassin,” said Kayla Jacoby, who had a daughter with Mr. King during their two-year relationship.

Mr. King, who has a history of pretending to be a decorated military officer, told the same story to Amanda Zignego, his former fiancée and the mother of two of his children, later threatening to kill her if she shared the secret.

When Hannah Evans, his next fiancée, broke off their engagement last September, citing his constant deceptions, he came clean. His father, he confessed, was actually Fast Eddie, a fugitive who, he said, had hijacked an armored car in England.

“I thought it was another lie,” said Ms. Evans, who is nine months pregnant with his child. “And of every lie he had ever told me, that was the one where I had to laugh at him.”

Ms. King, who is also pregnant and currently living in a safe house, said she turned him in — and denied doing so in text messages to him — out of fear for her safety. There was a £100,000 reward in the case, but it is unclear whether the offer was still valid.

David Overcast, the police officer who skeptically took her statement last week, said Ms. King seemed nervous about her safety as she laid out her allegations.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years and this, right off the bat, was one of the craziest,” Officer Overcast said.

When Mr. Maher learned that he had been exposed, he was irate, threatening to kill the informant, according to an F.B.I. affidavit filed in federal court. After vowing to run again, even spending the night at a motel with his wife and younger son, Mr. Maher said last Wednesday that he would not resist arrest, wrote Special Agent Jeffrey W. Atwood.

Mr. Maher is being held on federal charges of possessing firearms as an illegal immigrant. The court determined he was unable to pay for a lawyer. Conversations are under way about extradition, which could take months.

A week later, residents still shake their heads at the idea of an international manhunt ending in Ozark. “It’s kind of back to business as usual,” said the police chief, Lyle Hodges. “But it was pretty interesting there for a while.”


John F. Burns contributed reporting from London. Lisa Schwartz contributed research.

    19 Years and £1 Million Later, a Past Catches Up, NYT, 14.2.2012,






Killers’ Families Left to Confront Fear and Shame


February 4, 2012
The New York Times


PUEBLO, Colo. — On a summer night not long ago, Maureen White sat alone in her living room staring at a DVD she had avoided watching for years.

On the screen was her older brother, Richard Paul White, the person who taught her how to ride a bike and who tried to protect her from their mother’s abusive boyfriend when they were children. He was confessing to murdering six people.

Toward the end of the videotaped police interrogation, Ms. White reached for a razor blade and began to slice her left leg.

“I felt such rage and anger and so many emotions I did not know what to do,” said Ms. White, 34. When she was done, she needed dozens of stitches and staples.

Mr. White, 39, will spend the rest of his life in prison for three of the murders, to which he pleaded guilty in 2004. Ms. White, whose life has always been fragile, is still struggling.

Like relatives of other violent criminals, she has found herself ill prepared to deal with the complex set of emotions and circumstances that further unhinged her life after her brother’s crimes. Under treatment for anxiety and depression, among other conditions, she has nightmares about serial killers and snipers. She is startled by loud noises and gets nervous around strangers.

And for more than a year after viewing the video, she continued to cut herself — something she had never done before.

“By cutting myself,” she said, “I wanted people to see on the outside how ugly and bad I feel on the inside.”

In a society where headlines of violence are almost commonplace, the families of the perpetrators are often unknown and largely unheard from. But now some relatives have decided to share their stories. In interviews with members of numerous families of varying social and economic status, siblings, parents, partners, cousins and children of convicted killers recounted the hardships they have experienced in the years since their relatives’ crimes.

In the flash of a horrifying moment, they said, their lives had become a vortex of shame, anger and guilt. Most said they were overwhelmed by the blame and ostracism they had received for crimes they had no part in.

Yet many of these families stay in close touch with their imprisoned relatives. Nat Berkowitz, the father of David Berkowitz, the New York City serial killer known as the Son of Sam, said he regularly talked to his son on the phone more than 34 years after his arrest. “I am 101, and it still goes on,” he said.


A Cousin’s Livelihood

On Nov. 5, 2009, 13 people were killed and 32 others wounded at Fort Hood, Tex. By the next day, the repercussions had reached a small law office in Fairfax, Va. The head of the firm, Nader Hasan, is a cousin of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the man accused of carrying out the rampage, and the two had grown up together outside Washington.

“Our phones went completely quiet, dead,” Mr. Hasan, 42, a criminal defense lawyer, said at a large oak table in his impeccably neat office, where a painting of the United States Capitol hangs above a fireplace. “It was devastating since we relied on referrals. I lost dozens of prospective clients, and it still happens.”

Internet accounts reported that the two men were relatives. An interview Mr. Hasan gave to Fox News soon after the shooting in which he said his cousin “was a good American” created an impression to some that he was condoning what his cousin was accused of doing.

Soon after, Mr. Hasan said, a father in a custody dispute he was handling filed an appeal to a lawsuit against Mr. Hasan in which he referred to him as “the cousin of the Fort Hood shooter.” The appeal argued that Mr. Hasan should be removed as guardian of the two children in the case and highlighted his link to Major Hasan.

The petition was dismissed, Mr. Hasan said. But during the first few months after the shooting, he said, he felt such humiliation that he was loath to appear in court. “We got continuances on a lot of cases until the next year because I did not want to be seen in the courthouse since I felt so embarrassed,” he said.

The discomfort crept into his personal life. When he returned to a local school where he had been a volunteer assistant wrestling coach since 2000, he said, he was asked to leave because of his connection to the Fort Hood violence. He packed up.

By March 2010, Mr. Hasan’s situation was improving. Referrals were on the rise, and his wife was pregnant with their first child. But he was agonizing about staying silent about religious extremism. With a lawyer friend, Kendrick Macdowell, he formed the Nawal Foundation, named after Mr. Hasan’s mother, and set up a Web site to encourage moderate American Muslims to denounce violence in the name of Islam. It was not an easy thing to do.

“There was a tremendous amount of family pressure on him to do nothing public, to not remind the world we are related to the Fort Hood shooter,” Mr. Macdowell said.

Late last year, Kerry Cahill, a 29-year-old woman who lost her father in the shooting, contacted Mr. Hasan to discuss the foundation, whose message she liked. They met at his home for several emotional hours. She said that Mr. Hasan was very apologetic and that she sensed he was burdened. She recently accepted his invitation to sit on the foundation’s board.

“We are both angry at the same thing,” she said.


A Lover’s Remorse

Debra Kay Bischoff was not the woman who arranged for Ronnie Lee Gardner, a career criminal with a history of escapes, to get his hands on a gun in a Salt Lake City courthouse, a weapon that he used to kill a lawyer and wound a sheriff’s bailiff in a failed escape.

But for the nearly 25 years that Mr. Gardner was on death row for that 1985 murder until his execution, Ms. Bischoff, who is his former girlfriend and the mother of two of his children, felt a sense of responsibility for much of his violence, including a previous killing of a bartender.

Ms. Bischoff cites her decision around 1982 to move from Utah to Idaho with their daughter and son to get away from Mr. Gardner and start a new life. Though she loved him deeply, she said, he had become terrifying to her.

Nonetheless, Ms. Bischoff, now 52, said: “I felt such remorse leaving. What if? What if I hadn’t? He lost it because he lost us, the only people who ever showed him love.”

In a letter she sent in June 2010 to the prison warden and the state parole board pleading for Mr. Gardner’s life about two weeks before his execution, Ms. Bischoff wrote, “You see, he opened his heart to us and then we broke it, and I honestly believe it was too much for him to take and he reacted in violent ways to release his anger and hurt.”

That Mr. Gardner died by firing squad — a method he chose over lethal injection — has left her with an even heavier conscience. And she says she has misgivings that her husband of 27 years knows how deeply she loved Mr. Gardner.

“I never did get over Ronnie, and I don’t know it ever ended with him,” she said, adding that she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work and volunteering at a youth program, all to help troubled youngsters so that they may have a better upbringing than he did.

Ms. Bischoff, her husband and the son she had with Mr. Gardner, Daniel, 31, live in a one-story house they built next to potato and grain fields in a middle-class neighborhood in Blackfoot, Idaho. Soon after the execution, Mr. Gardner’s brother Randy and his daughter with Ms. Bischoff, Brandie, were allowed to observe the bullet wounds in his chest to make sure he had died as quickly as the authorities said he would.

“To look at his face and chest has haunted me,” Randy said. “I have night sweats and nightmares.”

As for Brandie, 34, who works at a bakery earning $8 per hour, the fact that her father had been absent virtually all her life has left her bitter and distrustful of men.

“I wanted to be a daddy’s girl, but I did not have a guy to raise me or a first guy to love, and that affected my relationships with men,” said Brandie, who had an eight-year marriage that fell apart. “I have kept myself walled off so I won’t get hurt again by any man.”

Brandie was in alcohol rehabilitation by the time she was 14, she said, and more recently was charged with felony domestic battery after fighting a man while drunk. “I have been destructive like a tornado because I have been so mad,” she said. Soon after the execution, Brandie said, she attempted suicide by downing large quantities of pills and washing them down with beer. She ended up in the hospital for about three days.

Less than a month later, she was drinking Jack Daniel’s and swallowing more pills.

“The last time I tried to kill myself, honestly, I felt like I was done,” Brandie said, standing in a bedroom of the worn bungalow she rents on a tree-lined street in Idaho Falls. In her hands was a plastic box containing some of her father’s ashes.


A Brother’s Fears

Ever since Aug. 18, 2005, Robert Hyde has been leery about what perils may lie outside, beyond his home near the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

That was the day his older brother, John, long plagued by mental illness, embarked on a homicidal spree that spanned about 18 hours and left five people dead in scattered parts of the city, with two police officers among the victims.

Mr. Hyde had never known his brother to be violent or cruel. He understood that John, who like himself was adopted but from different biological parents, had been paranoid and odd, but he did not think John was prone to violence. Knowing now that John had descended into such savage behavior has changed the way Mr. Hyde perceives people.

“The world is darker to me now; I am more nervous when I go out,” Mr. Hyde, 51, said as classical music softly played in the living room of his modest Pueblo revival-style house. “Who knows who else is out there somewhere who could change so drastically?” he said. “Maybe anyone could.”

The first time Mr. Hyde traveled after the shootings, on a trip to a lake with his girlfriend, they feared that others there might assault them. “It was paranoia,” he said. “It was a degree of post-traumatic stress.”

Then there was simply the matter of his last name. He was self-conscious when it was called at a doctor’s office. His son, he said, a high school senior when the shootings occurred, endured nasty taunts from fellow students: “Are you going to go Hyde on me?”

Not long after John, now 55, was arrested, he told his legal guardian that he wanted to kill Mr. Hyde and their cousin Christian Meuli, a recently retired physician. “I was so scared John was shrewd enough to escape that I was prepared to flee from my home,” said Dr. Meuli, 60. For the next four years, he carried a 3-by-5 index card on which he had written phone numbers and other critical information he would need in case he had to disappear.

Mr. Hyde used to work in the field of substance abuse research and now makes a living selling antiques and other collectibles. He has devoted time to speaking about the need for better access to quality behavioral health care and greater communication between providers. He says he believes that could have made a difference in his brother’s mental health and possibly in preventing the crimes.

“I have tried to get more involved in this issue, but I don’t have the power,” Mr. Hyde said. “My last name is a hindrance.” A Sister’s Guilt

In 2003, life looked promising for Danyall White, another sister of Richard Paul White. After a difficult childhood, everything seemed to be falling into place. She was studying to be a court reporter at a school outside Denver and had a job answering phones for a pay TV provider.

For about a year, though, her brother had been telling her that he had killed women throughout Colorado. But Mr. White, then 30, often “said off-the-wall things,” she recalled. She dismissed the morbid claims as fantasies.

One day Mr. White told her that he had fatally shot a close friend by accident, another tale that she considered imaginary.

That was until he showed her a newspaper article about his friend’s death. The article said it might have been suicide, but Ms. White, imagining the guilt the victim’s parents might feel, decided she should inform the police about her brother’s claim. He was arrested on first-degree murder charges. Soon after, Mr. White confessed to killing five women he believed to be prostitutes (though the police found the bodies of only three of them).

Now, Ms. White is grappling with her own guilt. “It wasn’t just the guilt of my brother being behind bars, but the guilt of watching everybody’s life falling apart because of what I did, the phone call that I made,” said Ms. White, 37. “Some of my family shunned me, and it ate away at me.”

Soon enough, Ms. White said, she found “a friend and confidant” who never left her side: alcohol. For several years, her days were soothed by Jack Daniel’s and dozens of bottles of beer.

After the arrest of her brother, Ms. White abandoned her studies and was dismissed from her job because, she said, the company told her it could not assure her safety against colleagues’ threats and insults.

When her ailing mother died, Ms. White could barely function. She said life’s toll since turning in her brother had led her to attempt suicide four times.

In 2010, Ms. White entered an alcohol rehabilitation program and says she had been sober for 20 months before briefly relapsing recently. “I told no one in rehab who I was, that I was R. P.’s sister,” she said. “In sobriety, I have realized that I was taking responsibility for someone else’s actions. A lot of the guilt has subsided.”


Research was contributed by Jack Styczynski, Toby Lyles and Sheelagh McNeill.

    Killers’ Families Left to Confront Fear and Shame, NYT, 4.2.2012,






Brutal Crimes Grip an Indian Reservation


February 2, 2012
The New York Times


WIND RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION, Wyo. — At a boys’ basketball game here last month, Wyoming Indian High School, a perennial state power, was trading baskets with a local rival. The players, long-limbed and athletic, are among the area’s undisputed stars, and their games one of its few diversions. On this night, more than 2,500 cheering, stomping people came to watch.

Outside the gym, in a glass trophy case, are photographs of players from recent championship teams. Someone peered in and, moving his finger along the line of smiling faces, delivered a cruel counterpoint: killed in a car accident at 19 while intoxicated; murdered in his 20s; struck in the head with an ax not long after graduation.

The Obama administration, which has made reducing crime a priority in its attempt to improve the quality of life at dozens of Indian reservations plagued by violence, recently ended a two-year crime-fighting initiative at Wind River and three other reservations deemed to be among the country’s most dangerous.

Nicknamed “the surge,” it was modeled after the military’s Iraq war strategy, circa 2007, which helped change the course of the conflict. Hundreds of officers from the National Park Service and other federal agencies swarmed the reservations, and crime was reduced at three of the four reservations — including a 68 percent decline at Mescalero Apache in New Mexico, officials said. Wind River, as has been true for much of its turbulent history, bucked the trend: violent crime there increased by 7 percent during the surge, according to the Department of Justice.

Despite its bucolic name, the reservation, nestled among snowcapped peaks and rivers filled with trout, is a place where brutal acts have become banal. A rambling stretch of scrub in central Wyoming the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, Wind River has a crime rate five to seven times the national average and a long history of ghastly homicides.

During the initiative, which increased the number of officers on the reservation to 37 from 6, crimes included the murder of a 13-year-old girl who had been missing for four days and whose partly clothed body was found under a tree, and the killing of a 25-year-old man, who the police say had been beaten with a child’s car seat and a dumbbell by two friends after a sexual encounter.

“This place has always had the gloom here,” Kim Lambert, a tribal advocate on the reservation, said as she drove by a line of small houses people refer to as “murderers’ row.” “There has always been the horrendous murder. There has always been the white-Indian tension. It’s always been something.”

Crime may be Wind River’s most pressing problem, but it has plenty of company. Life, even by the grim standards of the typical American Indian reservation, is as bleak and punishing as that of any developing country. On average, residents can expect to live 49 years, 20 years fewer than in Iraq. Unemployment, estimated to be higher than 80 percent, is on a par with Zimbabwe’s, and is approaching the proportionate inverse of Wyoming’s 6 percent jobless rate.

The reservation’s high school dropout rate of 40 percent is more than twice the state average. Teenagers and young adults are twice as likely to kill themselves as their peers elsewhere in Wyoming. Child abuse, teenage pregnancy, sexual assault and domestic violence are endemic, and alcoholism and drug abuse are so common that residents say positive urinalysis results on drug tests are what bar many from working at the state’s booming oil fields.

On one section of the reservation, people must boil drinking water because chemicals, possibly the result of the oil and natural gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, have contaminated the water supply. And fearing that the chemicals might explode in a home, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered residents to run fans and otherwise ensure ventilation while bathing or washing clothes.

The difficulties among Wind River’s population of about 14,000 have become so daunting that many believe that the reservation, shared by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes, is haunted — the ghosts of the innocent killed in an 1864 massacre.

“Anywhere, there are good spirits and bad spirits around,” said Ivan Posey, a member of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council. “But when people are struggling in their lives, those bad spirits come around more often. It’s kind of a yin and yang.”

Why the other reservations were able to curb crime while Wind River was not has been a matter of grave speculation. Some blame Wind River’s geographic isolation and a general apathy on the reservation, while others point to the numerous troubled children being raised by grandparents unable to keep track of them.

During a recent Friday night patrol on the reservation, Michael Shockley, a Wind River police officer whose department lacks even the basic ability to track crimes, said he was surprised to learn that the surge had not reduced violent crime.

Even with 10 fewer officers than it had during the surge, Officer Shockley said, the Police Department responds to all calls, not just the most serious ones. Crime, he said, has appeared to ebb, especially when compared with what he referred to as the bad old days, when on a single night about a year ago, he drove a total of 400 miles, logged 42 calls and arrested 19 people.

Still, signs of disillusionment are ubiquitous: piles of empty Black Velvet whisky and vodka bottles; discarded prescription bottles for painkillers; gang graffiti; burnt-out homes.

As far as criminality, this is the pinnacle,” Officer Shockley said. “You see everything here.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which oversees the Wind River Police Department, says the rise in violent crime was a result of people reporting offenses they might have ignored before — which suggests that the reservation’s crime rate is even higher than previously thought. In fact, the bureau says, crime has fallen since the surge ended in October, although it did not provide statistics.

Joseph Brooks III, the Wind River police chief, said that one resident, shocked that the police response had gone from hours to minutes, told him, “Chief, if I knew you were going to come immediately, I would have called you later.”

One crime the surge was unable to prevent was the death of Marisa Spoonhunter, an eighth grader at Wyoming Indian Middle School who was killed in April 2010. Her parents recognized her body by the coat they had recently bought for her in Denver.

Marisa’s 21-year-old brother, Robert, and 19-year-old stepcousin were arrested and convicted. The three had been drinking in a trailer home when Robert Spoonhunter said he blacked out and awoke to find his sister and cousin having sex. An enraged Mr. Spoonhunter said he choked his sister for about 20 seconds before flinging her away. Marisa’s head hit a weight-lifting bench.

The men fastened a rope to her ankles and dragged her under a tree. Before resuming drinking, they put her clothes in a burn barrel.

At the sentencing, Vern Spoonhunter, the father of Marisa and Robert, said Marisa had been in the third generation of Spoonhunters to be murdered at Wind River — meeting the same end as his father and brother.

“Now we have two rooms in our home that are empty,” he said, referring to his children. “And that’s what we have to deal with.”

    Brutal Crimes Grip an Indian Reservation, NYT, 2.2.2012,






Coroner Identifies Man

Whose Head Was Found in Hollywood Park


January 19, 2012
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coroner's officials on Friday identified a man whose dismembered head, hands and feet were found in a Hollywood park as a 66-year-old from Los Angeles, and police continued to hunt for his killer.

The victim's name is Hervey Medellin, coroner's Lt. David Smith said. Public directories show Medellin lived in a Hollywood apartment near the rugged, hillside park where his remains were found.

Investigators served a search warrant Thursday night on a Hollywood apartment in the area, but it wasn't immediately clear if it was Medellin's apartment.

"They did serve a search warrant last night. They are following clues, and the case is progressing. Guys are working around the clock to find out who did it and find the rest of the body," police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Friday.

He did not elaborate on why the warrant was served or what, if anything, detectives found.

"We don't want to give out too much information because the investigation is ongoing," Smith said.

Medellin's head was found Tuesday by a dog walker at Bronson Canyon Park, and police searchers discovered the hands and feet during a two-day search that ended Thursday. The park, a brushy, wooded expanse of rolling hills just below the Hollywood sign, reopened Friday.

Although police have concluded no other body parts were dumped in the park, visitors who find anything they believe are related to the victim's death should contact authorities, Smith said.

More than 120 police officers, firefighters and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies searched 7 acres of the park after the head was discovered in a plastic grocery bag. The hands and feet were found nearby.

Police have said they believe the victim was killed elsewhere and his remains dumped just inside the park, which attracts hundreds of hikers and dog walkers on most days.

Although rustic, it is located just a short distance from film studios and other Hollywood attractions.

Police believe the body parts were left there no more than a day or two before the head was found because they had barely decomposed and had not been attacked by coyotes that roam through the park at night.

Authorities don't believe the Los Angeles case is connected to a case in Tucson, Ariz., where police found a torso on Jan. 6. They say if the two were related, the remains would have been more badly decomposed.

Medellin's head was found after the dog walker let one of the animals she was shepherding through the park off its leash and it began playing with a plastic bag. When it shook the bag, the head fell out.

Smith said whoever dumped the head had gone to some effort to conceal it.

"If it had not been for the dog walker, we might never have found it," he said.


Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.

    Coroner Identifies Man Whose Head Was Found in Hollywood Park, NYT, 19.1.2012,






Fear of a Serial Killer

Sends the Homeless to Shelters in California


January 5, 2012
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — Skittish even at the best of times, homeless people in Orange County have been running to shelters this week in search of a safe place to sleep after the separate stabbing deaths of three homeless men. The authorities believe there is a serial killer stalking the homeless.

Demand for beds at some shelters was up as much as 40 percent in the last couple of days, while other shelters have been inundated with calls from frightened homeless people wondering if the killer has been caught, whom he is targeting and where they can go.

Jim Palmer, president of the Orange County Rescue Mission, said the prospect of a serial killer in their midst had shaken the county’s homeless like nothing he had seen in the last two decades.

“People are very, very anxious about the situation,” Mr. Palmer said. “This is just so evil that somebody would go after the least, the last and the lost of our community: homeless people on their own.”

Similarities in the three killings have led the police to suspect that a single killer is targeting the men. All three victims were middle-aged transients stabbed multiple times, and all three homicides occurred between Dec. 20 and Dec. 30 in the inland areas of Orange County.

“Because of the proximity, the close ages and the fact that all three were homeless at the time of the murder, we believe that one suspect was involved,” said Sgt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department. “We believe it to be a serial murderer.”

The authorities believe the killer to be male, based in part on grainy security video that showed a man in dark clothing approaching the first victim. Little else is known about the suspect.

The police and homeless advocates have reached out to the county’s homeless, informing them of the killings and encouraging them to go to shelters. Over the course of a year, about 18,000 people will be homeless in Orange County, according to Orange County Community Services.

Many chronic homeless people, however, after years on the street, become wary of shelters and sleeping near others. Mr. Palmer said several organizations planned to conduct a major outreach effort, offering flashlights, whistles and cards with safety information tips, like sleeping in a group instead of alone.

The body of the first victim, James McGillivray, 53, was found in Placentia on Dec. 20 outside a shopping center. The second victim was found eight days later on the Santa Ana River Trail in Anaheim, and identified as Lloyd Middaugh, 42. The third victim, identified as Paulus Cornelius Smit, 57, was found behind the Yorba Linda library.

A task force working on the case, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, has released three images related to the investigation. One shows a man walking toward the victim before the first killing. The others show a white Toyota Corolla in a nearby parking lot.

Still, as the killer remains at large, the county’s homeless have remained on edge.

Jesse Reyes, 24, had lived on the streets with his family on and off until he found them a place at a local shelter six months ago. He said he feared for some of the people he had met while he was homeless.

“With all this happening,” he said, “it’s scary to think about where you can go to sleep, not knowing if the person next to you is the one doing it all.”

    Fear of a Serial Killer Sends the Homeless to Shelters in California, NYT, 5.1.2012,






Los Angeles Arson Suspect Is Charged With 37 Counts


January 4, 2012
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — The man suspected of setting more than 50 fires in the Los Angeles area was charged on Wednesday with dozens of counts of arson.

The suspect, Harry Burkhart, 24, a German who was born in Chechnya, was charged with 37 counts of arson in the series of fires that terrorized the Hollywood and West Hollywood area last weekend.

Mr. Burkhart seemed disoriented during his initial appearance in court here Wednesday. He did not enter a plea, and his bail was set at $2.8 million.

“We believe the defendant engaged in this conduct because he had a hatred for Americans,” said the deputy district attorney, Sean Carney, adding that the fires amounted to “a campaign of terror against this community.”

Just before the arson spree began, Mr. Burkhart publicly railed against Americans. At a court hearing last Thursday for his mother, who is charged with multiple counts of fraud in her native Germany and is fighting extradition, he screamed, directing expletives at Americans and the United States, until he was removed from the building.

At another court hearing here Tuesday, Mr. Burkhart’s mother, Dorothee Burkhart, said her son was mentally ill.

On Wednesday, Mr. Burkhart gazed absently around the courtroom and often stared at the ceiling. At one point, as sheriff’s deputies wearing rubber gloves held Mr. Burkhart upright, his lawyer asked the judge if his client could sit down.

Mr. Burkhart may have a history of arson in Germany, the authorities said. Investigators in the case indicated that he was a suspect in an arson and a fraudulent insurance claim in Germany. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that prosecutors in the German city of Marburg were investigating Mr. Burkhart in connection with a fire that destroyed his family’s home in October.

The California fires, which caused more than $3 million in damage, were set by incendiary devices placed under the engines of cars. The arsonist experimented with different methods of setting fires, causing greater and greater damage, according to investigators, and used a device to accelerate the fires. Some of them spread to nearby apartment buildings.

Mr. Carney said the district attorney’s office was likely to file more charges against Mr. Burkhart.

    Los Angeles Arson Suspect Is Charged With 37 Counts, NYT, 4.1.2012,






Los Angeles Police Arrest Suspect in Car Arsons


January 2, 2012
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — A four-day storm of arsons that caused more than $3 million in damage to cars and apartment buildings across Los Angeles led to an arrest early Monday morning after a reserve sheriff’s deputy, on patrol in the midst of another chaotic night of serial fires, recognized a man from a video surveillance tape released this week.

The man, Harry Burkhart, 24, was taken into custody without incident around 3 a.m. on Sunset Boulevard on the outskirts of Hollywood, close to a drug store and a gas station. He was charged with arson around 6 a.m. and was being held without bail.

“A serial arsonist has, I believe, been caught,” Sheriff Lee Baca of Los Angeles County, standing in front of a bank of television cameras, said at a news conference attended by a parade of elected officials.

Sheriff Baca called the suspect “perhaps the most dangerous arsonist in the county of Los Angeles that I can recall.”

Chief Charlie Beck of Los Angeles Police Department said Mr. Burkhart was a German national; few additional details about the case would be provided for now, he added.

Chief Beck said he hoped that the suspect was acting alone, but he refused to rule out the possibility of other people being involved. “That is our huge concern at this exact moment,” Chief Beck said. “We have every hope that he did. But we do not know that yet.”

Search warrants were being executed at Mr. Burkhart’s house, Chief Beck said, and information from those searches would help officials determine how many people were involved in setting the fires.

Still other officials, including Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, seemed more optimistic that this arrest would resolve the case. And they said that there had been no more fires after Mr. Burkhart, who was driving a van that contained some incendiary material, was taken into custody.

The arrest brought at least a temporary reprieve in an episode that dominated the New Year’s weekend here. The attacks began early Friday morning and continued the next three nights. In the end, 52 cars were set on fire. Since many of the cars were in carports or garages, a number of apartment buildings sustained serious damage as well.

The random attacks stirred anxiety in neighborhoods across the city. But there were no significant injuries in connection with the fires, the authorities said.

Mr. Burkhart’s arrest came after another chaotic night, as cars began exploding into flames after dusk. The streets were again flooded with police officers, detectives and fire investigators.

Chief Beck said the case would not have been solved without the release on Sunday of a videotape showing the suspect leaving a parking lot.

Shervin Lalezary, a reserve sheriff’s deputy who works for $1 a year, spotted the suspect and stopped him at Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. He was introduced to considerable applause at the news conference on Monday evening as he described the stop. “As soon as I put on my lights and initiated a traffic stop of the suspect vehicle, I had an L.A.P.D. vehicle behind me ready to go,” he said.

For the next two hours, the area was roped off and police helicopters rumbled overhead.

Although the police declined to rule out the possibility of accomplices, they said two other men arrested last week and charged with arson in connection with fires set in the same area were not related to Mr. Burkhart or these latest attacks.

Chief Beck said officials would release only limited information while the investigation continues.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” he said. “Details about the suspect will not be released tonight. Many questions will go unanswered. That is not because the investigation is dormant.”


Ian Lovett contributed reporting.

    Los Angeles Police Arrest Suspect in Car Arsons, NYT, 2.1.2012,






Four Attacks in Queens With Homemade Firebombs


January 2, 2012
The New York Times


A wave of arson attacks spread across eastern Queens on Sunday night, and the police said the firebombings were being investigated as bias crimes — with Muslims as the targets.

No one was hurt in the four attacks, in which homemade firebombs were apparently used. In three of the four attacks, the police said, Molotov cocktails were made with Starbucks bottles.

The first attack occurred just before 8 p.m. at a bodega at 179-40 Hillside Avenue.

Ten minutes later, another crude firebomb was thrown, this time at a private home at 146-62 107th Avenue, and the house caught fire.

Half an hour after that, an Islamic center at 89-89 Van Wyck Expressway was the target. The last attack occurred at a house at 88-20 170th Street, the police said.

The Islamic center, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, houses one of the most prominent Shiite mosques in New York. According to its Web site it offers funeral services, counseling and free SAT classes. It lists branches in several cities, including Montreal and Islamabad, Pakistan. Calls to the foundation were not returned Sunday night.

The firebomb, made with a glass Starbucks bottle, was thrown at the door of the center, possibly from a van as it drove it by, the police said. The door was blackened, but the building did not catch fire.

A similar weapon was found at the bodega, the site of the first attack, according to the police. The bomb might have been thrown from inside the store, because the counter sustained some damage, the police said.

It was the second attack, on 107th Avenue, police and fire officials said, that caused the most damage.

Shortly after 8 p.m., someone called 911, saying that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at their home. The house caught fire, and it took more than 60 firefighters about 40 minutes to bring it under control.

In the fourth attack, two bottles were thrown at the house on 170th Street. A spokesman for the Fire Department said that the person who called 911 said they saw a vehicle drive by as the bottles were hurled toward their home. But the flames quickly fizzled.

Four Attacks in Queens With Homemade Firebombs, NYT, 1.1.2012,




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