Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

New York City

11Rikers Island Medical Intern Violently Attacked By Inmate Caught On Tape

A Rikers Island jail surveillance camera captured footage of an inmate, who has a history of attacking strangers, violently punching a 24-year-old medical intern Wednesday.

Joseph McRae's unprovoked attack on Stephanie Porcelli happened around 11:30 a.m. at the jail's George R. Vierno Center in New York City.

The New York Daily News observed the security video, which shows the small-framed Porcelli getting sucker punched in the face by the 5-foot-9, 150-pound McRae.

Porcelli can be seen wearing a white lab coat, carrying a clipboard in her right hand and reaching to open an office door McRae was standing next to, the Daily News reports. As she walks up to the door, it appears McRae pretends to take a swing at her, prompting Porcelli to say something to him.

That's when he threw a right roundhouse punch to her face, and caused Porcelli to fall to the floor. As McRae hovered over her, a guard rushed over to avoid further violence.

Porcelli was taken to Booth Memorial Hospital in Queens, where she was scheduled to go into surgery Friday for fractured facial bones and a broken jaw.

McRae had been locked up on charges of assault July 30 for hitting a woman in the face at Penn Station, officials said.

A correction officer at the Manhattan Detention Center was also struck in the face and knocked unconscious Thursday by an inmate who resisted being handcuffed, according to officials.

Another incident outside of New York occurred at Saginaw County Jail in Michigan on Oct. 20, 2013, when a nurse was attacked by a 45-year-old inmate after she performed a medical evaluation, MLive reported. She had a thermometer on a lanyard, which the inmate held against her neck as if to stab her with it, officials said.

The nurse suffered fractured cartilage in her larynx, and bruises on her throat, neck and arm, but was treated at a local hospital.

The Saginaw County Sheriff pointed out that the jail holds over 500 inmates with an average of 11 correction officers on duty.

11Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Plans To Spend $50M To Challenge The NRA

Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg has announced his plans to spend $50 million on a new campaign aimed at challenging the National Rifle Association and their pro-gun stance.

“They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you,’” said Bloomberg of the NRA. “‘If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop.’ We’ve got to make them afraid of us.”

How does Bloomberg plan to scare the NRA? By spending $50 million to target a specific audience in the hopes of spreading the truth about gun control.

"You've got to work at it piece by piece," said Bloomberg to the New York Times. "One mom and another mom. You've got to wear them down until they finally say, 'Enough.'"

The new campaign, called Everytown for Gun Safety, will specifically target women, and more specifically moms, in an effort to curb gun violence in America. According to reports, the new campaign will be an umbrella organization for two other groups that Bloomberg is involved in, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America.

“I put $50 million this year, last year into coal, $53 million into oceans,” said Bloomberg of past initiatives while expressing hope for his new venture. “Certainly a number like that, $50 million. Let’s see what happens.”

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, says that she hopes the new initiative will have more women thinking about how gun violence affects their lives and will use that while they’re voting at the polls.

“Right now, women, when they go to the polls, they vote on abortion, they vote on jobs, they vote on health care,” said Watts. “We want one of those things to be gun violence prevention.”

Bloomberg says that an advisory board for the Everytown project will include prominent members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

11Small Measles Outbreak In New York City Traced To Vaccinated Patient

A New York City theater worker who had been vaccinated against measles contracted the disease and passed it on to four other people, according to a new story from Science NOW.

Conventional wisdom has it that those who receive a measles vaccination shortly after their first birthday and follow that up with a booster shot as a toddler are immune for life against the potentially fatal skin and respiratory disease. Furthermore, it was thought that, should such a person become infected, that person would not be contagious.  

In the case of the New York theater worker neither turned out to be true. In 2011, the 22-year-old woman, who the article refers to as “Measles Mary,” was released from hospitalization and quarantine even though she tested positive for measles. According to the article, health officials tracked 88 people whom she had contact with. They found that she passed the infection on to four of them, two of whom had been vaccinated for measles as well.

Subsequent blood tests revealed that, contrary to what was previously thought, immunity in individuals might actually break down over time.  

If it turns out that people do lose immunity as they age it could pose a serious health threat.  

Parents opting to obtain exemptions to keep their children from being vaccinated has become a real trend. An article for the website Live Science, earlier this year, reported that Washington, California and Vermont had all recently passed laws making it more difficult for parents to obtain those exemptions.  

Health officials argue that unvaccinated children pose a threat to the greater population by creating holes in vaccination coverage that could allow certain diseases to gain a foothold.   

"It's not about what's just good for my child. It's about what's good for the neighbor's child who might have a high risk for disease," said Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University’s School of Medicine. 

“The stakes are high,” he said.

Parents refusing to have children vaccinated coupled with waning immunity due to age could lead to a serious measles outbreak, according to Robert Jacobson of the Mayo Clinic. A vaccine failure rate of even 3 to 5 percent could devastate a high school with a few thousand students he said. He stressed that early vaccination is key to preventing such an outbreak even if the vaccine occasionally fails.

“The most important ‘vaccine failure’ with measles happens when people refuse the vaccine in the first place,” he said.

Sources: Science NOW, Live Science

11Woman Goes Ballistic, Trashes Diner (Video)

Latima Brown reportedly went ballistic inside a New York City diner last week after the manager requested that she leave.

The New York Police Department says Brown entered the Malibu Diner at about 5 a.m. last Wednesday (video below).

She engaged in a loud and profane cell phone conversation for about half an hour, didn't order food and ignored requests to keep it down.

“She was yelling and very upset and very verbal,” diner owner Alex Grimpas told DNAinfo New York. “We’re used to loud, but the cursing was very heavy.”

"When the manager told her to leave if she wasn't going to order food, she got very irritated," added Grimpas.

Brown allegedly spat on the manager, threw a ketchup bottle at his head and smashed a flat-screen television with a bottle.

“Her friend was trying to hold her back, but she went ballistic,” Grimpas stated.

Grimpas told CBS New York that Brown also threw pastries, a telephone and credit card machines onto the floor.

After Brown left the diner, the NYPD was called, and officers apprehended her nearby.

According to the NYPD, the damage totaled up to $1,200. Brown was arrested for assault and criminal mischief.

Sources: CBS New York and DNAinfo New York

11One Million Bodies Buried In Mass Graves On New York's Hart Island

There are 1 million bodies buried in mass graves on a forbidden island in Long Island Sound.

The bodies of stillborn infants, homeless people, the poor and the unclaimed were stacked three coffins deep on Hart Island, just east of the Bronx, AFP reported.

There are no names marking the graves, only white posts shoved into the ground to make each set of 150 adult bones.

One of the largest cemeteries in the country, it is illegal to film or photograph on the uninhabited island. Visitation can only be done with the authorization of the Department of Corrections, which oversees the island.

Hart became a cemetery during the Civil War. Over the years it has served as a military training camp, a prison for captured Confederate soldiers, a workhouse, a mental asylum and a Cold War missile base.

Inmates from Rikers Island buried corpses at Hart Island, with 1,500 bodies sent there annually, according to visual artist Melinda Hunt.

Hunt is head of the Hart Island Project, which aims to make the cemetery more accessible to the public.

The island has one jetty. It’s covered in spikes and barbed wire and closed to the public.

"You have a right to know where a person is," Hunt told AFP. "It's very important not to disappear people. It's not an acceptable thing to do in any culture."

The DOC says it doesn’t have the resources to make the island open to visitors. Few visits have been permitted to the island since 2007.

Elaine Joseph, a 59-year-old nurse whose baby daughter died when she was just five days old in 1978, said, "They treat you as a visitor of an inmate.”

"You don't see anything," Joseph said. "They check your ID and ask you to hand over your cell phone, any electronic equipment, and they put it in an envelope and lock it and then you get to the island, they ask for your ID again.”

Joseph was allowed to visit the grave site on March 14, after she and a small group of women threatened to file a complaint against the DOC.

Laurie Grant, a 61-year-old doctor who gave birth to a stillborn daughter in 1993, was supposed to visit the gravesite on March 28, but the ferry that was supposed to carry her there never arrived.

It is unclear whether there was a miscommunication or an unwillingness to let her visit.

Joseph dreams of the day the cemetery will be open to the public, so she can visit as often as she wants.

"I can't say I found closure," Joseph said. "When you lose a child, there really is never closure. There is a piece of you that is gone. I did find solace in that there was water surrounding it and there was a lovely view."

She wants to install a bench to honor her baby, where she can leave flowers.

"If I can put a marker on a bench, I'll be happy," she said.

Sources: Yahoo!, Discovery

11FBI Charges NYC Correction Officer For Letting Inmate Die In Custody

On Monday, the FBI arrested a New York City correction officer and charged him with violating the civil rights of an inmate who died under the officer’s watch. The FBI has alleged that Terrence Pendergrass refused to get medical help for a mentally ill inmate, Jason Echevarria, after the inmate swallowed cleaning chemicals while locked in his cell at Rikers Island. According to a New York Times story it is alleged that Echevarria died as a result of the officer’s neglect.

The death occurred Aug. 18, 2012, after Echevarria swallowed a packet of cleaning chemicals. The inmate had been given the “soap ball,” as it is known at Rikers, to clean up after a raw sewage leak. After swallowing the chemicals Echevarria began vomiting and complaining of pain. A correction officer alerted Pendergrass, a Captain at the time, of Echevarria’s condition but Pendergrass told the officer not to bother him unless, “there was a dead body,” according to the FBI. 

Pendergrass was alerted by a second officer of Echevarria’s condition but he still refused to call medical help for the inmate. According to the court documents Echevarria suffered from bipolar disorder and had a history of acting up. He was found dead in his cell hours later. 

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide as the result of “neglect and denial of medical care.” The autopsy reveled that the chemicals had stripped the linings from Echevarria’s tongue and throat. 

City officials said it would have been difficult to convict Pendergrass of murder charges.

"We just didn't have sufficient evidence to move forward,” Bronx District Attorney spokesman Steven Reed said last year, according to the New York Daily News.

The FBI then stepped in to seek justice for Echevarria.

"The public’s trust in law enforcement officers to enforce the law and ensure justice should never be abused," FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos told NBC New York. “The FBI is the lead federal agency to investigate such abuses of power and it remains one of our top priorities.”

Pendergrass appeared in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday afternoon. He was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law and released on $250,000 bond. He could serve 10 years in prison if convicted.

Sources: New York Times, New York Daily News, NBC New York

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11Child Services Left Deceased 4-Year-Old In Father’s Custody While He Was Serving Jail Time

New York City's Administation for Children’s Services left 4-year-old Myls Dobson in the custody of his father, Okee Wade, even though he was serving five months in jail.

Dobson was found dead and beaten while in the care of his father’s girlfriend, Kryzie King last week.

Wade, 37, was awarded full custody of Dobson in Aug. 2012, when the boy was three. The next month Wade was arrested on fraud charges.

City officials admitted Friday that the Administration for Children’s Services, which should have monitored the Dobson’s placement for a year, failed to consult with his father’s parole officer, as ordered by a judge.

Despite making nine visits to Wade’s Brooklyn apartment, the ACS says it never realized Wade was in jail. Wade’s girlfriend at the time, Addy Holmes, reportedly told caseworkers that Wade was “at work" when they visited.

“Every time we went to visit, we were told the father was working very long hours, 16 hours a day, and that’s why he wasn’t available,” ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion said.

Carrion said caseworkers are not required to meet with a parent.

“Should we have done something differently? Yes,” she said.

When Wade was arrested on Dec. 19, he left his son in the care of 27-year-old Kryzie King.

On Jan. 8, Dobson was found dead in a bathtub.

The 4-year-old was beaten, starved, burned and tortured. King was charged with first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment.

“It’s very, very painful to know that this child went through such agony. That a child was lost,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has launched an investigation into the handling of the boy’s case. He plans to announced a series of reforms to ACS to ensure another child can’t slip through the cracks.

Sources: New York Daily News, CBS New York

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11Retired NYPD, Firefighters Face Charges Over False “Stress-Related” Social Security Claims

More than 100 people were reported to federal authorities after submitting similar Social Security Disability claims citing “stress-related” illnesses.

The majority of the claims came from retired New York City cops and firefighters, according to the New York Daily News.

The Social Security Administration grew suspicious when it kept seeing the same diagnoses on claims stating the applicant was mentally or emotionally unfit to work.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is expecting to announce arrests stemming from the scam next week.

Some of the beneficiaries are receiving 9/11 pensions, sources told the Daily News.

At least two doctors and other medical professionals could also face charges. Sources say that for each “patient” they helped scam the social security system they would collect a kickback.

Federal authorities initially refused to launch a full-scale investigation. The district attorney’s office looked into the claims and found at least one of the scammers still had a gun permit despite his mental health diagnosis.

Retired NYPD can’t possess a firearm if they are being treated for stress-related or mental health problems.

The Internal Affairs Bureau of the NYPD joined the investigation and discovered other retired cops scamming the system.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed a new police commissioner, William Bratton, on Wednesday. The 66-year-old Bratton has promised to reform the NYPD in the wake of the controversial federal ruling on stop-and-frisk.

The mayor referred to Bratton as a "progressive crime-fighter."

Sources: New York Daily News, ABC News

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11Macy's Hides Black Santa From Public, Won't Discuss Him (Video)

Most shoppers at Macy's flagship store in Manhattan do not know there is a black Santa Claus, because he can only be found with the help of the store's employees.

Amy K. Smith of AnimalNewYork.com recently went on a trek inside the store to find the black Santa, who is also referred to as the "special Santa."

Smith went through the Santaland exhibit in the store for the white Santa, but when it came to finding the black Kris Kringle, it took extra work (video below).

According to Smith, "Macy’s doesn’t reveal black Santa’s location the way they do the white Santa. It’s not advertised in any newspapers or even on their website in very small print next to an asterisk. Inside the dizzying Santaland maze, the walls are adorned with traditional (white) Christmas scenes... There is zero evidence the black Santa even exists."

When Smith asked the white Santa if there was a special Santa, the white Kris Kringle stated, "Well that’s me. I’m the special Santa, the everyday Santa, the good-looking Santa, the ugly Santa... to everybody.”

Smith asked an elf to help her find the “special” Santa, but he had to go find a woman not dressed as an elf who guided Smith through a maze of corridors to the black Santa who was greeting a black girl and her mother.

Moments after Smith met the black Santa, she says an "older white man in a suit stepped into the room. He said we needed to go through Macy’s publicity department in order to shoot video, and then he followed us out the door of Santaland until we arrived at the photo processing center."

The New York Daily News contacted Macy’s publicity department, which refused acknowledge the existence of a black Santa Claus.

“It is not Macy’s policy to have Santa speak about race or religion,” said Elina Kazan, Macy's VP of media relations.

Employees at Macy's Santaland said that shoppers have to tell an elf that they'd like to see the "special Santa."

Sources: AnimalNewYork.com and The New York Daily News

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11PR Exec Justine Sacco Sparks Outrage With Racist AIDS Tweet

A publicist for New York City firm IAC, the parent company of OkCupid, CollegeHumor, and Vimeo, found herself in hot water Friday, when she tweeted an off-color joke and ignited an epic backlash.

Just before getting on a plane Friday morning, Justine Sacco tweeted: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

When she arrived at her destination, she realized the tweet sparked so much controversy that the hashtag “#HasJustineLandedYet” was trending for a large portion of the day.

Her Twitter account has since been taken down.

IAC released a statement distancing itself from Sacco.

"This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC,” the company said. “Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.”

The inflight Internet provider Gogo even riffed on the incident.

“Next time you plan to tweet something stupid before you take off, make sure you are getting on a @Gogo flight! CC: @JustineSacco,” Gogo tweeted.

“I bet the Duck Dynasty guy could use a PR rep if @Justine Sacco needs a new job,” tweeted one man.

A self-professed lover of comedians like Louis CK, Lena Dunham, and Rob Delaney, this isn’t the first time she’s tweeted something controversial, On The Media reported.

In February 2012, she tweeted, “Someone get the rape kit ready for Tom Brady. Go Giants! #SuperBowl.”

Weeks later she wrote, “I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night. #fml”

Comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted at her Friday, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for @JustineSacco." -- Phil Robertson in MIRACLE AT QUEERDUCK CREEK (1943)”

Someone bought the domain name justinesacco.com redirected it to the organization Aid for Africa.

“To the person who bought justinesacco.com and redirected it to Aid for Africa... Well played. #HasJustineLandedYet,” tweeted one man.

Sources: On The Media, Mediaite

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