'Bling bandit' suspect pleads guilty to bank heist
The bank robber dubbed the bling bandit because of flashy jewelry worn during a string of stickups in Nassau and Queens pleaded guilty to a single robbery charge in a plea deal that will jail him for between 1 and 3 years. Athelston Kelson, a retired NYPD cop and Vietnam veteran who has cancer, is still facing five robbery-charge counts in Nassau, where he is due back in court Jan. 6, according to court records. Kelson, born in 1948, pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree robbery holding up a Chase Bank at 205-32 Linden Blvd. in Queens and stealing $600. Kelson's attorney, Anthony Ricco, could not be immediately reached for comment. His mother, Hilda Kelson, has blamed her son's behavior on his terminal cancer diagnosis, his broken marriage and the effects of Vietnam-era fighting. Kelson, who authorities said was identified in part because, during the heists, he wore a ring customarily given to retiring NYPD detectives, is to be sentenced Jan. 12 by Judge Dorothy Chin-Brandt. He is jailed pending sentencing.
Jail tape recording tossed in murder-for-hire case
A Nassau judge threw out a tape recording on which prosecutors say a murder suspect is trying to hire a hit man. Acting State Supreme Court Justice William Donnino issued his decision Friday after listening to the 30-minute tape of the defendant, Harpal Hira, and an undercover police officer during a hearing Wednesday. "The recording is not sufficiently audible to avoid having the jury speculate as to its content," the decision said. The officer wore a wire when he visited Hira at the Nassau County jail in June, prosecutors said. Hira, 35, of Hicksville, is charged with fatally stabbing his mother-in-law and seriously injuring his estranged wife at his twin sons' birthday party in August 2008. Prosecutors said Hira could be heard on the tape trying to hire an undercover officer to kill his sister-in-law, a key witness. Hira's lawyer, Michael DerGarabedian of Rockville Centre, said he anticipated the decision. "You couldn't understand anything," he said of the tape.