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Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Judge on New York’s Top Court, Is Found Dead in Hudson River
MATTHEW HAAG Apr-13-2017 301 0


Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an associate judge on New York State’s highest court and the first African-American woman to serve on that bench, was found dead on Wednesday in the Hudson River, the authorities said.

Officers with the New York Police Department’s Harbor Unit responded about 1:45 p.m. to a report of a person floating by the shore near West 132nd Street in Upper Manhattan. Judge Abdus-Salaam, 65, was taken to a pier on the Hudson River and was pronounced dead by paramedics shortly after 2 p.m.

The police were investigating how she ended up in the river, and it was not clear how long Judge Abdus-Salaam, who lived nearby in Harlem, had been missing. There were no signs of trauma on her body, the police said. She was fully clothed.

A law enforcement official said investigators had found no signs of criminality. Her husband identified her body.

Since 2013, Judge Abdus-Salaam had been one of seven judges on the State Court of Appeals. Before that, she served for about four years as an associate justice on the First Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, and for 15 years as a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan. She was previously a lawyer in the city’s Law Department.

Zakiyyah Muhammad, the founding director of the Institute of Muslim American Studies, said Judge Abdus­-Salaam became the first female Muslim judge in the United States when she started serving on the State Supreme Court in 1994.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday that Judge Abdus-Salaam was a pioneer with an “unshakable moral compass.” He added, “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”


In nominating her to the highest court in 2013, Mr. Cuomo praised her “working-class roots” and her “deep understanding of the everyday issues facing New Yorkers.” Her nomination was part of a push by Mr. Cuomo to diversify the court. When another judge, Rowan D. Wilson, joined the court this year, it was the first time the Court of Appeals had two African-American judges in its 169-year history.

On the court, Judge Abdus-Salaam was among the most reliable and steadfast liberal voices, regularly siding with vulnerable parties — the poor, impoverished immigrants and people with mental illnesses, for instance — against more powerful and established interests. She also tended to lean toward injured parties who brought claims of misconduct, fraud or breach of contract against wealthy corporations.

Among her colleagues, she was admired for her thoughtfulness, her candor and her finely crafted and restrained writing style. She was not one to use her decisions as a soapbox to make high-sounding political points or to wax poetic, even when her rulings were precedent-setting.

In a statement, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said, “Her personal warmth, uncompromising sense of fairness and bright legal mind were an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to know her.”

Last summer, Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote an important decision, Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C., that expanded the definition of what it means to be a parent, overturning a previous ruling. For 25 years, the court had held that the nonbiological parent in a same-sex couple had no standing to seek custody or visitation rights after a breakup.

But Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote that the previous ruling had become “unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships.” In a tightly reasoned decision, she determined that nonbiological parents did have standing to seek custody if they showed “by clear and convincing evidence that all parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together.”

The Court of Appeals last heard oral arguments at the end of March and issued opinions on April 4. It is scheduled to be back in session on April 25.

Judge Abdus-Salaam grew up in Washington, one of seven children in a poor family, and earned her law degree at Columbia University in 1977. After law school, she became a public defender in Brooklyn, representing people who could not afford lawyers, and then served as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State attorney general’s office. In one of her first cases, she won an anti-discrimination suit for more than 30 female New York City bus drivers who had been denied promotions.

Seymour W. James Jr., the attorney in chief of the Legal Aid Society, the nation’s largest provider of free legal services, said he had first met Judge Abdus-Salaam in the early 1980s, when she worked at the Civil Rights Bureau. Mr. James said her upbringing and years spent representing the poor and disenfranchised had shaped her perspective on the bench. “She was a strong believer in equal rights and equal access to justice,” he said in an interview.

In an interview in 2014 about black history, Judge Abdus-Salaam said that she had become interested in her family’s history as a young girl in public school and that her research had led her to discover that her great-grandfather was a slave in Virginia.

“All the way from Arrington, Va., where my family was the property of someone else, to my sitting on the highest court of the State of New York is amazing and huge,” she said. “It tells you and me what it is to know who we are and what we can do.”

Eric H. Holder Jr., the former United States attorney general, was classmates with Judge Abdus-Salaam at Columbia Law School and sang her praises at her swearing-in ceremony in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

It was clear that she was intelligent, serious and witty, he said at the time, according to The A.P. But she could have fun, too: “Sheila could boogie,” he said.

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In an exclusive video to APP.com, father Kenroy Smith tearfully asked Trump to intervene after AbbieGail's older sister Kenish had her visa application denied. The visa for Kenroy, who had previously been deported from the U.S. on a drug charge 16 years ago, remained in limbo.

The Smiths said they were desperate to come to Keansburg to pay their final respects to AbbieGail and to see where she had been fatally stabbed last week. They feared they would miss their only chance to say goodbye.

"My dear little AbbieGail was taken away and I need to pay my last respects to her," Kenroy Smith said breaking down in tears. "That's all I'm asking."

Kenish, the sister, said her temporary visa application was rejected Wednesday. She said she wasn't given a reason, but officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, questioned her about her occupation as a cosmetologist and her ties to her home country before making the decision.
Kenish said she showed officials AbbieGail's death certificate and a letter from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, but she was still turned down for a visa.

A State Department official said visa applications are judged on a case-by-case basis and the department doesn't comment on individual cases.

"AbbieGail Smith needs her sister there at the moment," she said. "Who's going to stand up for us? We have no control. We can't do it on our own."

Kenroy Smith said he would find out Friday whether he would be granted entry to the United States.
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AbbieGale's body was found July 13 wrapped in a blanket on the roof of her apartment building hours after she was reported missing, authorities said. She was killed by a stab wound to the neck.
Smith's upstairs neighbor Andreas Erazo has been charged with her murder. He is in the Monmouth County Jail awaiting a bail hearing.

AbbieGail will be buried Monday following a Mass at St. Ann's Church in Keansburg.

Kenroy Smith said he was unsure whether he would be allowed into the country. He was deported from the United States to Jamaica in 2001 following a marijuana arrest.
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Latisha Smith, one of AbbieGail's sisters who lives in Maryland, said she has been up early every day this week writing emails to elected officials and going to local immigration offices in a frantic last-ditch effort to help her father and sister get visas.

"Every minute it's like I'm hitting a roadblock, but I'm just not going to stop," she said. "I'm not stopping until they're here."

Latisha Smith said AbbieGail frequently visited her father in Jamaica and that Kenroy had developed a special bond with his youngest daughter.

"We're a family. We all need to be together for AbbieGail," she said. "The government — I just hope they hear my cry."
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A former Miss Kentucky USA from Louisville is accused of smuggling drugs into an Ohio prison for an inmate.

Kia Hampton, 28, was arrested on May 26 in Allen County, Ohio, after police say she was caught smuggling marijuana into the Allen Correctional Institution for Jeremy Kelly, an inmate at the facility, according to an affidavit detailing the arrest.

Hampton was crowned Miss Kentucky USA in November 2010 when she was 21 years old. She was the first African American chosen to represent Kentucky in the Miss USA pageant.

While listening to recorded phone calls, officers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol said they obtained enough evidence to obtain a warrant for a cavity search.

As officers were interrogating her, Hampton reached into her pant leg and pushed a white balloon on to the floor, the affidavit said.

Officers later determined that she was carrying 2.82 grams of marijuana into the jail, Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Kenneth Sturgill said.

She was indicted on July 13 by an Allen County grand jury and faces one count of "illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto the grounds of a specified governmental facility," a third-degree felony that carries a three-year prison sentence.

Hampton is scheduled to be arraigned July 26 in Allen County.
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Dallas will have its first female police chief by the end of the summer.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax has chosen Detroit Deputy Police Chief Ulysha Renee Hall from a pool of seven finalists, three of them internal candidates.

"It was a difficult choice," Broadnax said at City Hall Wednesday, "but I believe Renee Hall will be a dynamic chief."

Dallas' chief position has been vacant since October, when Chief David Brown retired from the department. Assistant Chief of Police David Pughes ran the department as interim chief while officials searched for a permanent replacement.

Pughes didn’t apply for the job, but three insiders did: Deputy Chiefs Malik Aziz and Rick Watson and Assistant Chief Gary Tittle.

Dallas city managers have chosen to hire outsiders for the top cop job multiple times in the last few decades. Three consecutive chiefs — Mack Vines, Bill Rathburn and Ben Click — all came to the city after careers in departments outside the state.

Aziz, who has been a finalist in several other cities, was a favorite among officers to become the next chief. He had no comment Wednesday about the chief selection.

The city manager’s office initially selected eight people as finalists for the job, but Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye withdrew his application.

The city manager touted Hall's passion for public service and said she has the right tools to solve the department's key challenges.

"Chief Hall is a proven leader with a stellar background," Broadnax said. "These are qualities I believe are critical as we tackle crime to make our city safer while addressing organizational and policy issues within the department."

City officials say Hall will formally take over Sept. 5.

Three women — Hall, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson — now have some of the most powerful law enforcement jobs in the Dallas area.

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The boyfriend of a woman who was shot and left for dead outside of a Midlands hospital has now been charged with her murder, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

Albertus Lewis is now charged with murder and obstruction of justice.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department said the victim, identified as Mayra Sanchez, 20, was dropped off about 4:30 a.m. July 5 at Palmetto Health Richland.

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A 25-year-old South Carolina woman was in jail on Tuesday on a murder charge for the death of her 13-month-old daughter, who police said she left in a car last month while she went to a hair salon in suburban Atlanta.

The mother, DiJanelle Fowler, kept the car running with the air conditioning on, but the car's battery died while she was inside the beauty shop in Tucker, Georgia, on June 15, said DeKalb County Police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell.

Police believe Skylar Fowler was dead by the time her mother returned to the car a few hours later, Campbell said.

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The mother told police she herself had passed out from some sort of medical condition, Campbell said. But the child's condition indicated she had died sooner than the time Fowler suggested, the police spokeswoman said.

The high temperature in DeKalb County that day was 92 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Twenty-three U.S. children have died so far this year after being left in hot cars, up from 20 through mid-July in 2016, according to the nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, which tracks such deaths.

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Fowler left the Atlanta area after her daughter's death. She was arrested late on Monday after turning herself in to DeKalb County Police, who had been searching for her, Campbell said.

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Fired Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver has been indicted for murder for the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.

A Dallas County grand jury returned the indictment for Oliver Monday on one count of murder and four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant, according to Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.
  
"It is important to let our community know that justice is proceeding effectively and thoroughly at the Dallas County DA's Office," Johnson said. "This is the very first time we have issued an arrest warrant for a police officer before the case was presented to a grand jury. As we move forward, my office continues to be committed to seeking justice for Jordan and his family. You have my personal guarantee that we will prosecute this case vigorously."

Oliver, 31, was one of the responding officers on a call about a loud party on the night of April 29. Edwards was in a vehicle with three other teenagers leaving the party. Police said the car was driving away from the officers when Oliver fired a rifle into the vehicle and killed Edwards.
Oliver has already been indicted for two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant for a separate incident before the deadly shooting.
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The Dallas Country Grand Jury is expected to determine whether former Balch Springs Police Officer will be indicted for the murder of 15 year old Jordan Edwards. A press conference is scheduled for 3pm today.

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