Rikers reforms to add cams, more training
A federal judge on Wednesday formally approved a landmark settlement of a lawsuit over conditions at New York City's Rikers Island jail that calls for a monitor, 7,800 cameras in the facility and an array of reforms to try to cut down on violence.
Manhattan U.S. District Judge Loretta Swain also OKd $6.5 million in legal fees for private lawyers who pressed the suit, which was eventually joined by Justice Department lawyers from the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
In addition to more cameras in the facility, the settlement calls for some guards to wear body cameras, improved training, oversight and discipline of correction officers, and new rules for the government in handling of adolescents.
Swain said it would "provide an important example for other correctional systems around the country."
Judge: Silver's trial
to last 4-6 weeks
The judge overseeing the upcoming corruption trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said on Wednesday that she expects the trial to last from 4 to 6 weeks and has requested a pool of 70 prospective jurors from which to pick a jury.
Silver is set to go on trial Nov. 2 for allegedly doing legislative favors for Glenwood Management, a real estate firm, and Dr. Robert Taub, a cancer researcher, in return for them giving business and clients to law firms that generated $4 million in fees to Silver.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni also ruled on two unresolved evidence disputes, telling lawyers that Taub is likely to testify that state research funding is the only reason he used Silver's law firm, and she is likely to allow emails in which he expressed distaste for the firm, Weitz & Luxenberg.
The judge, in her final pretrial conference, said she hasn't decided whether to permit emails in which Glenwood officials and lobbyists expressed concern about the ethics of Silver getting fees from a law firm he had asked Glenwood to use to seek a property tax reduction.
Silver declined to comment after the hearing, other than to predict vindication. "This case should be tried in the courtroom, not in the press," he told reporters.
Mob turncoat taped his cousin for money
Testifying for a second day in Brooklyn federal court in the Lufthansa heist trial, mob cooperator Gaspare Valenti said Wednesday he began taping cousin Vincent Asaro for the FBI in 2008 because of money troubles and "nightmares" about his mob past.
"I was tired," said Valenti, 68, formerly of Baldwin, who on Monday fingered Bonanno mobster Asaro as a planner of the famous 1978 "Goodfellas" robbery of $6 million from the Lufthansa terminal at Kennedy Airport. "A lot of remorse, a lot of nightmares."
Valenti, who testified that he was a member of the crew that executed the robbery, said the FBI helped him with expenses in return for secretly recording Asaro, 80, of Howard Beach, for several years, beginning in 2008.
In tapes played Wednesday, Valenti and Asaro discussed shaking down a relative for a share of a house sale and commiserated about being past their prime. "Good days, bad days," Asaro said on one tape. "Gettin' old."
Asaro is charged with racketeering, including murder, robberies and loan-sharking, in addition to the Lufthansa theft.
Cops seek man who tossed urine on bus
Police are searching for a man they say threw urine in a bus driver's face in the Bronx.
Police say the suspect boarded the bus at White Plains Road and Pelham Parkway with a 5-year-old boy.
He got into an argument with the driver as the bus pulled up to Pelham Bay station and allegedly threw a vial of urine at him.
Police say he then fled with the boy. The driver suffered irritation to his face and eyes and was taken to a hospital.