5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: July 23, 2020

It’s another Thursday where I am running at full tilt, CivMixers. Therefore, I am running really behind schedule, and much as you may all love my quirky insights here (at least I tell myself that and it makes me happy), we are going to jump right in today.

I do want to say that as of the time I am writing this, there is no update in yesterday’s Crossgates Mall shooting incident.

Let’s get down to business then, shall we?

1) In just 15 days, the United States added one million people to its total number of positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the total up four million people infected in this country, according to the tracker run by Johns Hopkins University.

In another grim total, over 143,700 people have succumbed to COVID in the U.S. The next closest death total is Brazil, and their number is still about half ours.

And it’s tough to forget that the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said last month that for every reported case of COVID, there are most likely 10 other unreported cases, which brings the total up considerably.

The former epicenter of the pandemic here was New York, specifically the NYC area. Now, the five boroughs are reopening as the infection numbers continue to hold steady on the downside of the curve.

In the past two months, there have been new cluster centers emerging, with California, Florida, and Texas all seeing large amounts of cases. Arizona and Louisiana are seeing numbers that are significantly large due to the populations of their respective states.

In California, they have had two days in a row this week alone with more than 12,000 cases, and have skyrocketed to over 425,000 confirmed sick. Florida has rung in at third in total cases, behind only California and New York. Today they reported 173 total deaths in the past 24 hours, with over 10,000 new cases. Arizona is reporting positive cases for over 2 percent of its population.

We are far off of the projections we were getting early in the pandemic’s days, where the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released a model saying that the high prediction of deaths was 141,995, with the peak of deaths to be on April 15. So far, the CDC shows our latest peak on July 17, and we are looking at the high end of predicted deaths as it quickly fades in the rearview mirror.

Another disturbing trend in the US is increasing cases in people in their 20s and 30s. This is thought to be due to the large numbers of open gathering places such as restaurants and bars, especially those allowing indoor seating. Though most have seen the benefit of mandating face coverings in public, some states are still not making it state law.

2) Federal District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered that Michael Cohen be released back to home confinement today, ruling that Cohen was sent back to prison as retaliation for making critical statements against President Trump in public.

Judge Hellerstein agreed that Cohen should be released no later than this Friday at 2 PM.

During a hearing held by phone due to restrictions in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Cohen’s lawyer, Danya Perry, argued that her client’s first amendment rights were being violated with his return to the federal prison as it happened in response to him tweeting that his tell-all book about his relationship and work experiences at the right hand of President Trump would be out in September.

Cohen, 53, was initially released from the Otisville, NY Federal Penitentiary in May due to preexisting conditions that increased his risk of contracting COVID-19 at the facility where the disease was plentiful. This was a nationwide program that allowed for federal inmates to be sent to other jails that did not have as high of an infection rate or serve their sentences confined to their homes.

However, shortly after tweeting that he was going to be releasing the tell-all book on Trump, his probation officer informed him he needed to sign a ban on speaking in public, which included writing a book. It was going to be added as a condition of his home confinement. The exact provision, according to court documents, said: “No engagement of any kind with the media, including print, tv, film, books, or any other form of media/news. A prohibition from all social media platforms.”

The form went on to say this was all meant to avoid letting Cohen get anything out of his status as an inmate while serving his The judge noted that this was something he has never seen in his over 20 years as a judge, and could take it in no other way than setting up for a retaliatory action for his book.

According to Cohen and his lawyers, they initially asked if they could have the provision modified. They say they were told that would have to be discussed with the officers’ superiors – but shortly after, Cohen was shackled and returned to the Otisville, NY Federal Penitentiary. The prison officials said he refused to sign conditions of his home confinement. His lawyers say he never refused to sign, just asked if there were room for changes.

This was an attempt to censor him in any possible criticism of President Trump and his administration, Cohen’s lawyers argued. They cited many previous rulings and examples of prisoners publishing and using their First Amendment rights in the past.

The Department of Justice held firm to the argument that this had nothing to do with censorship, but that Cohen would not sign a document that provided for parts of his release into the home confinement program. They said that his announcement about his book had nothing to do with it. The judge did not see it that way.

“I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people. How can I take any other inference, but that it was retaliatory?”
-Federal District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein

3) Late yesterday, Katherine Polk Failla, a federal judge in New York, granted a temporary restraining order that bars the release of discipline records for police officers until she can hear the arguments in the lawsuit filed by the Union that is challenging the repeal of 50-A. That will be at least until August 18.

After being transferred out of state court, the case fell on Failla’s desk. Representing NYD and some other public safety unions, the Police Benevolent Association sued on July 15 to block NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio from posting misconduct complaints in an online database. The PBA argued that posting any false or unproven accusations could not only damage an officer’s reputation but put them in danger.

Matthew Kadushin is the general counsel for the Civilian Complaint Review Board and said that he is sure the city will win the suit, and be allowed to make people aware of issues with the people sworn to protect them.

Judge Failla included the ACLU’s New York chapter in its temporary restraining order, as they had planned to release records they already obtained after the 50-a repeal last month. NYCLU’s legal director Christopher Dunn stated that they plan on quickly contesting being included in the order, as they got the files legally before the suit was filed and were not named in the lawsuit.

4) Yesterday, over 30 more child sexual abuse complaints were filed against Albany’s Roman Catholic Diocese. Seven of those claims were against the now-deceased Brother Clement Adan Murphy, C.F.C., who was assigned to Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbon High School in Schenectady back in the 1960s and 1970s.

These were filed by two law firms – Jeff Anderson & Associates and LaFave Wein & Frament – who between them have filed 107 lawsuits against the Albany Diocese in NYS Supreme Court. They are filed under the Child Victims Act.

With these seven filings, eight total complaints have been filed against Brother Murphy under the CVA.

Two of the complaints name registered sex offender Michael Scaringe from Cohoes as the perpetrator. In the 1970s, Scaringe was a music teacher at St. Helen and St. Paul the Apostle schools in Schenectady, and this are when the abuse claims are from. According to the complaints, Scaringe was convicted in 2012 for sexually abusing a child while the director at the Saranac Lake Youth Center in the Adirondacks.

Two complaints allege abuse by Brother James Vincent Hanney, C.F.C., while he was employed at Bishop Gibbons High School and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School in the 1970s. Hanney has at least 12 pending suits against him.

Yet another complaint is against Frank Genevive, a former Priest at St. Anthony of Padua in Troy. Genevive was convicted of abusing minors from the late 1970s to late 1980 back in 2008. He died in 2014.

There are over 100 cases currently pending against the Albany Diocese under the current look-back period of the Child Victims Act. This period lets survivors file cases that were previously barred by the statute of limitation restraints against those who abused them as minors.

According to data provided by the state court system, there have been CVA as of today.

5) The Fulton County Sherriff’s office wants the Capital Region to be aware of a telephone fraud going around after a 72-year-old man lost $25,000 to a phone scammer.

The victim picked up a phone call and was told that the federal government was investigating him for perpetrating an alleged money laundering scheme. The scammer said the gentleman that his social security number had been stolen, and to get a new SSN, payments had to be made for the damage done.

The victim sent three payments out by both FedEx and UPS. UPS flagged the third shipment, and the Fulton County Sherriff’s Office assisted them with investigating. The money was returned to the gentleman, and the scope of this scheme was realized.

In a release, the Fulton County Sherriff’s office requests that anyone who gets a call requesting any form of payment in this scam or any similar one contact them as part of their ongoing investigation.

That is all for today. Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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