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Cory Booker Would Be Front-Runner In Prospective 2014 New Jersey Senate Race, Poll Finds
Nov-29-2012 457 0


Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) would likely fare well in New Jersey's 2014 Senate race, according to a poll released Thursday by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling.

If Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) doesn't run for reelection, 48 percent of Democrats would support Booker, putting him far ahead of potential rivals Rob Andrews and Frank Pallone, PPP found. Nearly six in 10 Democrats said they'd rather see Booker run than Lautenberg, while 22 percent would rather see the current senator stay in place.

Lautenberg, who is 88, has refused to comment on his 2014 plans. His spokesman told NJ.com that he is focused on rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, and that "retirement is the last thing on his mind."

In the general election, Booker would defeat one possible Republican candidate, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, 52 percent to 29 percent, PPP found. Lautenberg would win 48 to 33 percent against the same opponent.

“Democrats will likely hold onto their Senate seat in New Jersey regardless of their 2014 candidate,” said Dean Debnam, PPP's president.

Booker would face longer odds if he entered the 2013 gubernatorial race against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), whose approval ratings have shot up since his handling of the storm. A Quinnipiac poll found Christie leading Booker by 18 points in a hypothetical matchup. Lautenberg recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he's not sure any Democrat could win against Christie.

The PPP polled surveyed 600 New Jersey voters between Nov. 26 and Nov. 28, and had a 4 percent margin of error. An oversample of 300 Democratic primary voters had a 5.6 percent margin of error.

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MITCH SMITH Feb-08-2016 33 0
The Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old and an unarmed bystander in December has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $10 million in damages from the teenager’s estate, an unusual legal approach based on a claim that the young man’s actions leading up to the gunfire were “atrocious” and have caused the officer “extreme emotional trauma.”

The lawsuit provides the first public explanation by the officer, Robert Rialmo, of what happened on Dec. 26 when he confronted Quintonio LeGrier, a college student who Officer Rialmo said was wielding a baseball bat. Mr. LeGrier and his neighbor Bettie Jones, 55, who the police said was an innocent bystander, both died after Officer Rialmo fired several shots.

The shooting, which is under investigation, further strained relations between the Chicago Police Department and African-American residents just weeks after another Chicago officer was charged with murder and as the Justice Department was beginning a broad review of Chicago police practices.

Basileios J. Foutris, a lawyer for Mr. LeGrier’s estate, called the lawsuit “nonsense” and said Officer Rialmo’s account of what had happened was “pure fantasy.”

“It’s a new low for the Chicago Police Department,” Mr. Foutris said. “First you shoot them, then you sue them. It’s outrageous. I can’t believe that this police officer has the temerity to turn around and sue the estate of the person who he killed.”

Officer Rialmo’s lawsuit, filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court, was a counterclaim to a wrongful death case brought weeks ago by Mr. LeGrier’s estate. The estate’s lawsuit claimed that Officer Rialmo acted improperly and that Mr. LeGrier “never posed a danger or threat of harm to any Chicago police officer.”

Joel A. Brodsky, a lawyer for Officer Rialmo, said that his client had responded appropriately after Mr. LeGrier confronted him with a baseball bat, but that the officer felt terrible that Ms. Jones had also been killed.

“He just wants to stress he did not see her. He did not know she was there,” Mr. Brodsky said. “When I say he feels extremely horrible about her death, that’s an understatement. But the bottom line is that it was Quintonio LeGrier who forced him to shoot.”

Mr. Brodsky acknowledged that it was rare for a police officer to sue the estate of a person he killed, but said Officer Rialmo was entitled to do so. “There is no question that he suffered very extreme emotional trauma and stress as a result of what Quintonio LeGrier did,” Mr. Brodsky said.

Officer Rialmo’s account of the shooting provides far more detail than the city’s official statements, which acknowledged that Ms. Jones was accidentally struck but provided few details about what happened before the gunfire. According to the officer’s counterclaim, Mr. LeGrier charged down a staircase and swung a baseball bat twice at Officer Rialmo. Though the officer was not struck, the lawsuit said, one swing came “close enough for Officer Rialmo to feel the movement of air as the bat passed in front of his face.”

The lawsuit said Mr. LeGrier, who before officers were dispatched had called 911 and been hung up on, continued advancing toward Officer Rialmo with the bat after those two swings. At that point, the counterclaim said, Officer Rialmo feared for his life and fired his gun from a few feet away.

Mr. Foutris said the officer’s account was contrary to the evidence he had seen so far, and he questioned the contention that Mr. LeGrier threatened the officer with a bat.

“Why would a kid that called three times asking for police help ever swing a bat at a cop?” Mr. Foutris said.

Mr. Brodsky said Officer Rialmo is a white Chicago native in his 20s from a family with several police officers and firefighters. He said Officer Rialmo, who remains on desk duty, joined the department about three years ago after serving in the military.

Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, said Sunday that the counterclaim was “not a department lawsuit” and declined to comment further.

Mr. LeGrier and Ms. Jones were killed about a month after Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald, who was 17 and black. Video footage of that shooting showed Officer Van Dyke continuing to fire his gun after Mr. McDonald, who was carrying a knife but veering away from police officers, fell to the ground, seeming to contradict statements by the police.

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Jason Silverstein Feb-07-2016 40 0
A tenured professor at an Illinois Christian college will be stepping down after administration censured her defense of wearing a hijab, the school said.

Wheaton College announced Saturday night that political science professor Larycia Hawkins will “part ways” under a mutual, confidential agreement, two months after their conflict exploded into a national story.

“Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Graham Rykne said in a statement.

Ryken added in an email to faculty the decision came with “a mutual desire for God’s blessing,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Hawkins, in a statement, said she has “great respect” for the evangelic school, which put her on leave and considered firing her over the controversy.

The school said it would give no further information about Hawkins’ exit until a Wednesday press conference.

Hawkins came under fire from her bosses in December, after she said on Facebook she planned to wear a hijab in public. The professor, who is Christian, said she wanted to show solidarity with Muslims amidst rising resentments after the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks.

The school did not take explicit issue with her hijab, but rather a Facebook comment Hawkins wrote in defense of it, saying Muslims and Christians “worship the same god.” Wheaton said Hawkins violated the school’s Statement of Faith, which imposes a belief of “one sovereign God” according to Christian scripture.

Wheaton initially put Hawkins on paid leave. She said the school then pressured her to resign, then considered revoking her tenure, and in January made moves to have her fired.

The pressure up top came despite the school’s Faculty Council calling for Wheaton to let Hawkins stay at the school. Students also staged several campus protests against administration and formed a Facebook group, “Support Doc Hawk,” which drew more than 800 members.

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Feb-05-2016 95 0
U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley was nominated Thursday by President Barack Obama to serve as a federal judge in the U.S. Western District of Louisiana, which includes Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Shreveport.

Finley, a career federal prosecutor, has been U.S. attorney for the Western District since 2010.

She was the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney in the state.

The White House on Thursday also announced the nomination of Claude Kelly III to an open federal judgeship in the New Orleans-based U.S. Eastern District. Kelly has served as the chief federal public defender for the Eastern District since last year.

“Throughout their careers, these nominees have displayed unwavering commitment to justice and integrity,” Obama said in a written statement. “Their records of public service are distinguished and impressive, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the United States District Court bench. I am honored to nominate them today.”

Finley served as an assistant U.S. attorney for 15 years, from 1995 to 2010 and as an assistant staff judge advocate in the Air Force from 1991 to 1995.

She received her law degree from Southern University in 1991 and her undergraduate degree from Grambling State University in 1988. Her nomination comes after the retirement last month of U.S. District Judge Richard Haik, whose position was up to be filled after he took senior status last year.

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AP Feb-03-2016 160 0
A federal jury awarded $23.1 million on Wednesday to a 22-year-old black man who was unarmed when he was shot and paralyzed by a sheriff's deputy, but Florida lawmakers will have to approve any award above $200,000.

The six-woman, two-man jury ruled after 3½ hours of deliberation that Palm Beach County Sheriff's Sgt. Adams Lin violated Dontrell Stephens' civil rights when he shot him in September 2013.

Lin, who had stopped Stephens for riding his bicycle into traffic, testified that he shot him four times because he reached for his waistband with his left hand and then flashed a dark object that he thought was a small handgun. Stephens testified that he was raising his hands when Lin opened fire for no reason. Video from the dashboard camera in Lin's patrol car showed Stephens' left hand was empty and a cellphone was in his right hand.

An appeal is expected.

Stephens had been seeking more than $5 million to cover medical treatment and future care, but his attorney Darryl Lewis told a federal jury in his closing arguments Wednesday that the man should get at least $24 million. Lewis said Stephens will have more than $6 million in medical expenses during his lifetime, and that he deserves at least $18 million for his pain and suffering.

The jury apparently rejected Lin's claim that he had made an "objectively reasonable mistake" when he shot Stephens.

The case is among several nationwide that have sparked debate about the deaths of unarmed black males following encounters with law enforcement officers. Federal Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer had instructed jurors that they could consider only the specific circumstances of Stephens' shooting and no other. Lin, an Asian-American, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by sheriff's investigators and local prosecutors and was later promoted to sergeant.

Lin, 38 and a 12-year veteran of the sheriff's office, testified that he stopped Stephens for riding his bicycle into traffic and because he didn't recognize him from the neighborhood. Stephens had been riding back to a friend's house where he had been staying after a trip to a convenience store.

In the dashcam video, Lin speeds up his patrol car to catch Stephens as he pedals down a West Palm Beach residential street. Stephens sees Lin and turns into the parking lot of a duplex, hops off his bike and puts it down, his right hand holding his cellphone. Stephens moves behind a car and both men are now outside the camera's view.

Attorneys for both men say Lin told Stephens to put up his hands, but a radio station is playing in Lin's car and no verbal exchange can be heard. The shots are fired in rapid succession after Lin exits the car. Stephens comes back into the frame, makes two quick steps, turns and falls to the ground.

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REUTERS Feb-03-2016 112 0
A lawyer for Bill Cosby said on Wednesday that he never would have allowed the comedian to give a deposition in a civil lawsuit brought by a woman accusing him of rape if he knew his client's words could be used for a criminal prosecution.

Cosby, 78, was in court for a second day in suburban Philadelphia, where he faces charges of sexually assaulting a woman more than a decade ago.

His attorneys are asking the judge to toss out the charges, contending that a deal reached with a former Montgomery County District Attorney spared their client from prosecution in exchange for a 2005 civil deposition in which he admitted giving what he said was an anti-allergy drug to his alleged victim before a sexual encounter that he described as consensual.

Andrea Constand, now 44, has said Cosby plied her with alcohol and drugs before raping her.

More than 50 women have accused the once-celebrated entertainer, whose long career was based on family-friendly comedy, of sexually assaulting them in attacks dating back to the 1960s. Many of the incidents are too old to prosecute. The Pennsylvania case is the only incident for which Cosby has been criminally charged.

The former district attorney, Bruce Castor, testified on Tuesday that he had declined to bring charges in 2005 that Cosby had assaulted Constand, a former employee at Cosby's alma mater Temple University in Philadelphia, because he did not consider her case "viable."

Defense attorneys on Tuesday presented a 2005 press release from Castor's office that they said amounted to an agreement not to prosecute Cosby.

The defense called Cosby's chief attorney, John Schmitt, as a witness on Wednesday. Schmitt testified that would not have allowed Cosby to give the deposition if he had not been sure it could not be used against his client.

On cross examination, District Attorney Kevin Steele attacked the idea that Cosby's lawyers would allow a deal that was never spelled out in a formal non-prosecution agreement.

Prosecutors on Wednesday are expected to begin making their case that there was no binding agreement not to bring charges and that the case against Cosby, who faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty, should ultimately proceed to a trial.

Castor said he believed Constand's charges but thought a jury would view her as less than credible because she had waited a year to bring charges and had hired a lawyer to look into a civil suit.

He said declining to prosecute Cosby set the stage for a civil deposition in which the entertainer admitted to giving Constand the anti-allergy drug Benadryl before the sexual encounter.

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Laurie Hanna Feb-03-2016 148 0
A furious father was arrested after allegedly threatening his daughter with a knife after she came out.

Ike Wright, from Nashville, is accused of chasing family members with a knife after his daughter told him she was gay.

Wright was reportedly drunk when he waved the knife at his daughter, her girlfriend and his son, according to the police affidavit.

He is accused of pointing the knife at each in "separate threatening actions," reported Fox 17 News.

Police described Wright as "angry and agitated" after the Jan. 30 incident, and said that he "ranted about his daughter being a lesbian."

Investigators later found the weapon in the kitchen of his house, and Wright was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

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BARRY WILNER Feb-03-2016 114 0
Newton on Tuesday emphatically tried to lay to rest any relevance of an African-American quarterback appearing in the NFL's championship game.

During a series of questions by a media member that bordered on confrontational, Newton finally said to the reporter: "It's not an issue. It's an issue for you."

Carolina's All-Pro quarterback, seemingly tired of the topic, added: "I think we shattered that a long time ago."

This was the third time Newton had to deal with the subject since the Panthers made the Super Bowl. He didn't need to point out that several other black quarterbacks have led their teams to the big game: Doug Williams, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick, and Seattle's Russell Wilson the past two years.

Color? It matters not at all and never should have.

"I don't even want to touch on the topic of `black quarterback' because I think this game is bigger than black, white or even green," the fifth-year Panther said. "I think we limit ourselves when we just label ourselves just black this, that ...

"I want to bring awareness because of that, but yeah, I don't think I should be labeled just a black quarterback. It's bigger things in this sport that need to be accomplished."

Newton was on a podium for the media session, calmly and often comically answering questions for about 30 minutes. But when the issue of race was raised, his demeanor turned serious, and his answers profound.

He spoke about being a role model and an inspiration to others. About living the dream he has had since he was very young. And about making a difference.

"I pray to God that you know I do right by my influence," Newton said. "So when you ask me questions about African-American or being a black and mobile (quarterback), it's bigger than that.

"Because when I go places and I talk to kids and I talk to parents and I talk to athletes all over, they look at my story and they see a person -- African-American or not -- they see something that they can relate to. They see a guy who went a different route than just going to a major Division I school and flourishing there.

"But I just want to become relatable, you know what I'm saying? It's bigger than race. It's more so of opening up a door for guys that don't want to be labeled, that have bigger views and say: `Well, I'm in this situation, I'm living in this environment right now, but I also want to be an artist, I want to be a poet. But I don't have the means, you know, to necessarily do the right things at that point.

"As for me, I just want to give those people hope."

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Maria Puente Feb-02-2016 96 0
Bill Cosby's first hearing here in the criminal sexual-assault case against him is proving to be a mixed bag so far in helping or hurting his efforts to persuade a judge to dismiss charges.

Former District Attorney Bruce Castor, considered by the Cosby legal team to be a key witness, on the one hand testified that he declined to pursue criminal charges against him years ago because of "credibility" issues with Cosby's accuser in the case, ex-Temple University employee Andrea Constand.

On the other hand, Castor also testified he hopes Cosby fails in his efforts to get the case thrown out.

Castor said there was “insufficient, credible and admissible evidence” in 2005 to show Cosby had committed a crime without a reasonable doubt. Plus, he told the court, Constand didn't behave like a victim of sexual assault.

“The behavior detailed within (police interviews) was inconsistent with a person who had been sexually assaulted," Castor testified. "Her actions, on her own, including going to a lawyer before going to police, had created a credibility issue for her that could never be improved upon.”

Still, he was firm: He supports the prosecution team against Cosby.

“Let’s be clear," Castor said to Cosby's attorney. “I’m not on your team here. I want (prosecutors) to win” at the hearing.

On cross examination, Castor was asked whether he believed what Constand said happened to her more than a decade ago. What he believes and what he can prove are two different things, he replied.

"What I think is that Andrea Constand was inappropriately touched by Mr. Cosby,” Castor said. “I am not analyzing back in 2005 as to what I think. I am analyzing it back in 2005 as to what I can prove."

Therefore, he said, he declined to prosecute Cosby in 2005. He said this decision made it impossible for Cosby to claim his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the civil case Constand later brought against Cosby. Castor said he thought getting Constand money from Cosby via a civil suit would be “the best he could do.”

Earlier, Cosby, dressed in a dark tan suit and tie and flanked by two men helping him to walk, arrived to the anticipated media mob outside the small courthouse, the only place most of the media can photograph him during the hearing before Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby, center, arrives for a court appearance Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Norristown, Pa. Cosby was arrested and charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in January 2004. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)© The Associated Press Actor and comedian Bill Cosby, center, arrives for a court appearance Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Norristown, Pa. Cosby was arrested and charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in January 2004…

The scene outside the courthouse resembled in many respects the scene on Dec. 30, when Cosby was charged and arraigned in an even smaller courthouse, in Elkins Park, Pa., on charges of felony indecent sexual assault stemming from an encounter 12 years ago at his nearby home with Constand, who accused him a year later of drugging and raping her.

The Constand case against Cosby dates to 2004. Castor, the then-district attorney of Montgomery County, declined to prosecute Cosby in 2005 for lack of evidence. So Constand sued Cosby in civil court, and Cosby testified for three days in a deposition. The suit was eventually settled on undisclosed terms and sealed in 2006.

Since then, some five-dozen women have accused Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them in episodes dating back to the 1960s.

Last year, excerpts of Cosby's deposition were released and the new district attorney of Montgomery County, Kevin Steele, decided to file charges just weeks before the state statute of limitations was due to expire.

Steele intends to press his case against Cosby based in part on Cosby's own words in the Constand deposition.

Cosby's legal team will argue that the charges should be dismissed because of a "no-prosecution" deal in 2005, when Castor says he told Cosby's lawyer that if Cosby answered questions in the Constand deposition, Castor would agree not to prosecute Cosby based on the deposition.

Andrea Constand in 2015© Provided by Associated Press Andrea Constand in 2015 Castor was the first witness called at the hearing by Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle, to testify about his reasoning in not pursuing criminal charges against Cosby.

Steele has argued against Cosby's motion to dismiss, saying any immunity deal by Castor should have been written down and agreed to by a judge, and since it wasn't, it's irrelevant in this case.

But Castor said he believes his decision on the deal is binding on his successors and forever closes the door on prosecuting Cosby.

"For all time, yes," Castor said when pressed on the point.

Some legal analysts say that if Cosby can demonstrate that he relied on Castor's promise to his detriment — by agreeing to testify in the deposition — then he might be able to persuade the judge to throw out the deposition — or even dismiss the charges altogether.

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Leonard Greene Feb-02-2016 134 0
The troubled son of Rachel Noerdlinger, former aide to Mayor de Blasio's wife, was charged with aggravated manslaughter Monday after stabbing a teen who was robbing him, authorities said.

Khari Noerdlinger, 19, fatally stabbed the 16-year-old boy in the femoral artery while fighting off several people who were mugging him in Edgewater, N.J., around the corner from Noerdlinger’s home, said acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal.

A group of people accosted Noerdlinger and tried to rob him on Old River Road around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Grewal said. The attack ended with Savion Lewallen mortally injured.

Noerdlinger was being held on $500,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with aggravated manslaughter, weapons possession and resisting arrest. His devastated mother could not be reached for comment.

Lewallen was rushed to Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, where he died several hours later.

Lewallen was recently released from the Rockland County Jail, where he was being held on charges that he assaulted and held a 15-year-old high school girl against her will.

“I am broken,” the teen’s emotional father wrote on Facebook.

“How can I bury my son before me, Lord plz bury us together, take me now Lord,” Conrad Lewallen pleaded.

Friends of the teen posted equally grief-stricken goodbyes.

“I miss you lil’ bro,” a user named Jah Tyb Bango wrote.

Wendell Floyd, 18, who said he was Lewallen’s cousin, said the shell-shocked family was gathering in their Spring Valley, Rockland County, home.

“We grew up together. He was a good kid, cared about others,” Floyd said of the aspiring rapper.

Noerdlinger and four of his alleged attackers — Kevensky Lubin, 28, Richard Jean-Pierre, 18, Calim Gaspard, 23, and Mirleny Tremols, 33 — were arrested. The four, all from Rockland County, were hit with various armed robbery and conspiracy charges.

Noerdlinger took steps to remove evidence from the tragic scene, prosecutors said.

His lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said he hadn’t been allowed to speak to his client, and he was given no more information than what the prosecutor issued in a press release Monday night.

Lichtman said Noerdlinger was arrested Monday morning at his home by cops who initially said they wanted to question him, his mother and his mother’s ex-con boyfriend.

“We’re disappointed that he was charged with such a serious crime, and he was the victim of a crime, of armed robbery,” Lichtman said. “He fought back, and for that he was rewarded with a manslaughter charge.”

Lichtman said there was no resistance when Noerdlinger was arrested at 9:30 a.m., and his mom was “deeply upset.”

Mother and son made headlines when a string of mishaps forced her to resign her $170,000-a-year job as First Lady Chirlane McCray’s chief of staff.

Noerdlinger was his mom’s official excuse for not meeting a city residency requirement. She said he had been injured in a car crash, despite playing football for his high school team.

Mayor de Blasio and the First Lady, in Iowa stumping for Hillary Clinton, sent condolences.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family that has lost their son, and with everyone affected by this tragedy,” the couple said.

Noerdlinger and his mother’s boyfriend, Hassaun McFarlan — who was convicted in a 1993 homicide — have ranted online against cops. The teen once tweeted: “Pigs always killing people” and was also arrested in 2014 on a trespassing charge.

Michael Skolnick,political director for Russell Simmons, said Khari was “a good kid” who had interned for him last year.

“I love Khari. He's a really wonderful young man. I’m devastated by the news,” said Skolnick. “The reports about him being troubled — he’s just a teenager who’s trying to get through life, go to college and make it.”

Rachel Noerdlinger, who works at Mercury Public Relations, is also the longtime spokeswoman of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

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