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     Click here for Inner City Press' weekday news reports, from the United Nations and elsewhere.  Click here for a recent BBC piece on Inner City Press' reporting from the United Nations  Search This Site    Click for March 1, 2011 BloggingHeads.tv re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption by Inner City Press.     Click here for Inner City Press front page

  ICP has published a (double) book about a variety of Bronx-relevant topics -- a review in Commonweal magazine of Dec. 5, 2003, opines  that "Predatory Bender... is as vivid an account of life in the Bronx as you are likely to read" -- click here for sample chapters, here for an interactive maphere for fast ordering and delivery, and here for other ordering information.  See also, "City Lit: Roman a Klepto [Review of ‘Predatory Bender’]," by Matt Pacenza, City Limits, Sept.-Oct. 2004. CBS MarketWatch of April 23, 2004, says the the novel has "some very funny moments," and that the non-fiction mixes "global statistics and first-person accounts." The Washington Post of March 15, 2004, calls Predatory Bender: America in the Aughts "the first novel about predatory lending;" the London Times of April 15, 2004, "A Novel Approach," said it "has a cast of colorful characters."   The Pittsburgh City Paper of Dec. 11, 2003, wrote that it "may, in fact, be the first great American lending malfeasance novel" including "low-level loan sharks, class-action lawyers, corporate bigwigs, hired muscle, corrupt politicians, Iraq War veterans, Wall Street analysts, reporters and one watchdog with a Web site."  And all in The Bronx!   Click here for that review; for more information, contact usSee, in Nov 2021, Inner City Press' book "Belt and Roadkill," here

May 27, 2024

After Fentanyl Death in Bronx Daycare Now Grei Mendez Severed From June 10 Trial

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 23 – Following the death of a one-year old baby by fentanyl, on September 19, 2023 the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Grei Mendez and Carlisto Acevedo Brito.

On September 25, with no notice and Inner City Press initially the only person in the courtroom gallery, the third man was brought in: Renny Antonio Parra Paredes. Inner City Press live tweeted, thread:

 Judge Wang: You are charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics. AUSA: We seek detention, and they consent. Defense lawyer: Most of his family is out of town. We consent.

On January 23, Paredes' lawyer argued, and lost, before the assigned District Judge Jed S. Rakoff: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Jed S. Rakoff: Oral Argument as to Felix Herrera Garcia, Grei Mendez, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, Renny Antonio Parra Paredes held on 1/23/2024. The trial date is adjourned to 6/10/2024 and time is excluded in the interest of justice, pursuant to Section 3161 of Title 18. Deft Paredes bail application is denied as a risk of flight and danger to the community. All deft's continued remanded."

On February 12, Inner City Press went to a possible change of counsel hearing on lead defendant Felix Herrera Garcia - but soon Judge Rakoff asked everyone but Herrera Garcia and his still counsel to leave the courtroom, "even my favorite reporter."

Once back in, Judge Rakoff said the problem had been fixed, for now, with a letter possible in two weeks. On fingerprints he noted decisions by Judge Pollack in his native Philadelphia, and the Spain bombing fingerprint snafu. A Daubert hearing on prints is possible.

On March 21, Grei Mendez was brought into the Magistrates Court to be arraigned on a superseding indictment. Inner City Press was there, thread

On May 22, Grei Mendez got a new lawyer - and had her trial severed: "ORDER as to (23-Cr-504-2) Grei Mendez. On May 22, 2024, the Court held a hearing to determine whether counsel for defendant Grei Mendez had a conflict of interest that required the appointment of new counsel. Upon hearing the nature of the conflict, the Court determined that new counsel needed to be appointed for Ms. Mendez. The Court accordingly relieved the Federal Defenders as counsel for Ms. Mendez and appointed that day's CJA counsel to represent Ms. Mendez moving forward. As a result of the change of counsel, the Court severed Ms. Mendez from the jury trial of her co-defendant set to proceed on June 10, 2024, and a new trial will be calendared in her case."

Back on May 17, it was docketed that one of the defendants now plans to plead guilty: "NOTICE OF HEARING as to Renny Antonio Parra Paredes. An in court change of plea was scheduled. He did plead guilty.

May 20, 2024

After Fentanyl Death in Bronx Daycare Now One Defendant Set to Plead Guilty on May 23

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 17 – Following the death of a one-year old baby by fentanyl, on September 19, 2023 the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Grei Mendez and Carlisto Acevedo Brito.

On September 25, with no notice and Inner City Press initially the only person in the courtroom gallery, the third man was brought in: Renny Antonio Parra Paredes. Inner City Press live tweeted, thread:

 Judge Wang: You are charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics. AUSA: We seek detention, and they consent. Defense lawyer: Most of his family is out of town. We consent.

On January 23, Paredes' lawyer argued, and lost, before the assigned District Judge Jed S. Rakoff: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Jed S. Rakoff: Oral Argument as to Felix Herrera Garcia, Grei Mendez, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, Renny Antonio Parra Paredes held on 1/23/2024. The trial date is adjourned to 6/10/2024 and time is excluded in the interest of justice, pursuant to Section 3161 of Title 18. Deft Paredes bail application is denied as a risk of flight and danger to the community. All deft's continued remanded."

On February 12, Inner City Press went to a possible change of counsel hearing on lead defendant Felix Herrera Garcia - but soon Judge Rakoff asked everyone but Herrera Garcia and his still counsel to leave the courtroom, "even my favorite reporter."

Once back in, Judge Rakoff said the problem had been fixed, for now, with a letter possible in two weeks. On fingerprints he noted decisions by Judge Pollack in his native Philadelphia, and the Spain bombing fingerprint snafu. A Daubert hearing on prints is possible.

On March 21, Grei Mendez was brought into the Magistrates Court to be arraigned on a superseding indictment. Inner City Press was there, thread

On May 17, it was docketed that one of the defendants now plans to plead guilty: "NOTICE OF HEARING as to Renny Antonio Parra Paredes. An in court change of plea is scheduled for Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 4:30 PM  before Judge Jed S. Rakoff."

More on Substack here

On April 11 another defendant was added in an S2 indictment: Jean Carlo Amparo Herrera. He was brought into the SDNY Magistrates Court, where Inner City Press was the only media. His lawyer argued that he wasn't charged as the others were, and that she hadn't seen a video the prosecutor mentioned. But he had driven a co-defendant to Pennsylvania after the death, and more. He was detained.

The case is US v. Herrera Garcia et al., 23-cr-504 (Rakoff)

Watch this site.

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May 13, 2024

For 2002 Death of Atari Felton in The Bronx Ayala Gets 220 Months After Asked For 60

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 6 – For the murder of Atari Felton by 1665 Topping Ave in The Bronx on March 27, 2002 two defendants were brought shackled on September 13, 2023 before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.  Inner City Press was there, the only media in the courtroom.

 But the two defendants had supporters and family members. A third defendant - not in the docket - is in Jamaica from which he is unlikely to be extradited, the AUSA said.

 Judge Hellerstein expressed frustration at the slow pace of discovery production or processing; he asked why the Discovery Coordinator was not present. (They usually aren't, the AUSA replied).

  He declined to set a trial date before a motion schedule.

Jump cut to April 29, 2024, when Ayala's lawyer wrote in asking for a five year sentencing on May 6, arguing that "he did not have a gun nor was he at the actual scene of the shooting when it occurred."

On May 6, Ayala was sentenced to 220 months imprisonment.

May 6, 2024

For 2002 Death of Atari Felton in The Bronx Ayala Asks for Five Year Sentence

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 29 – For the murder of Atari Felton by 1665 Topping Ave in The Bronx on March 27, 2002 two defendants were brought shackled on September 13, 2023 before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.  Inner City Press was there, the only media in the courtroom.

 But the two defendants had supporters and family members. A third defendant - not in the docket - is in Jamaica from which he is unlikely to be extradited, the AUSA said.

 Judge Hellerstein expressed frustration at the slow pace of discovery production or processing; he asked why the Discovery Coordinator was not present. (They usually aren't, the AUSA replied).

  He declined to set a trial date before a motion schedule.

Jump cut to April 29, 2024, when Ayala's lawyer wrote in asking for a five year sentencing on May 6, arguing that "he did not have a gun nor was he at the actual scene of the shooting when it occurred."

The case is US v. Ayala, et al., 22-cr-378 (Hellerstein)

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April 29, 2024

Bronx Man Charged With Robbing Bodega Had Release Reversed Now Will Not Meet Doctor

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book

SDNY MAG COURT Exclusive, April 24 – The gun-point robbery of a deli / bodega on East 180th Street in The Bronx gave rise to a lengthy bail hearing on February 3, 2023 before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge Jennifer E. Willis.

Inner City Press was there until the 7:30 pm end, when an order to release the defendant once he obtains the signatures of three co-signers on a $75,000 personal recognizance bond. 

  NYPD Detective Matthew Lombardo sat next to Assistant US Attorney Brandon Thompson, who began by saying that release to the apartment right across 180th Street, where the defendant had been living, would not be acceptable.

 He added that residence further away might be acceptable to the US Attorney's Office.

  Beyond the robbery of the 180th Street store, which was caught on video, Thompson referred to previous armed robberies which the Bronx District Attorney had charged and then dismissed - due, he said, to witnesses being too afraid to testify.

  Judge Willis said this information could not be relied on, and that on the particular offense conduct in the complaint, the defendant could be released but must stay at least ten blocks away from the bodega.

More detail and analysis on Substack here

On February 7, the release on bond order was reversed by District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.

On March 1, James Kelly's case was indicted and wheeled out to Judge Gregory H. Woods.

On July 5, James Kelly appeared again in front of Judge Woods, to change lawyers for the second time. Inner City Press was there. Thread:

Judge Woods tells Kelly to confer with counsel before speaking in court.

But Kelly is trying to fire his 2d CJA lawyer: he confers with the CJA on duty, with the white noise turned up. He says he does not want to talk with his current appointed lawyer

Update: Judge grants James Kelly's request to fire current appointed lawyer and take CJA on duty - who asks for delay to develop relationship, & vacation.

Kelly: I'm charged with Hobbs Act robbery - but with case was dismissed.

Judge Woods: I haven't seen the discovery.

Neither have we.

On November 9, 2023, Kelly's lawyer wrote in about the trial scheduled for January 29, 2024, proposing motions due November 27 and that "the parties continue to work toward a pretrial resolution of this matter."

Jump cut to February 28, 2024 when in advance of what is for now a March 11 trial the US Attorney's Office wrote in arguing to preclude evidence of prior dismissals, adding that "the 48th Precinct is not on trial."

On March 1, Judge Woods scheduled a March 7 Daubert (expert witness) hearing on proposed testimony of Andrew Petersohn of DBM Engineering.

On March 11, the day of trial, James Kelly "refused to appear for the jury trial." Judge Woods urged prosecution and defense to confer about how to evaluate the defendant's competency.

On April 24 the US Attorney's Office wrote in to say that Kelly had refused to meet with Dr. Cheryl Paradis, on April 11, April 21 and April 23. They requested "a conference this week or next week, so that the Court can advise the defendant of the competency evaluation that has been ordered."

The case is US v. Kelly, 23-cr-113 (Woods)

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April 22, 2024

Felon Detained for Gun in His Bronx Safe Just Wanted to Go Home Now Trial Set for May 13

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 10 – Deron Boone was arrested in 1924 Webster Avenue in The Bronx on February 14, 2023 for having a gun - in a safe - while a felon. 

 On August 22, 2023 Boone appeared before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Paul G. Gardephe.

 He pleaded not guilty to the indictment, and was seeking a change of counsel. 

 Judge Gardephe, who had asked the day's CJA counsel to be present in the gallery where Inner City Press also was, explained to Mr. Boone that the state and federal systems work differently.

Separate sovereigns, he said. Was Boone sure he wanted to change counsel?   After some whispering, he was not. He said he just wanted to go home. He already served more than a decade for a gun-related parole violation.

He was given until September 29 to make motions - was there probably cause to search his safe? - and Speedy Trial Act was excluded.

Jump cut to December 26, when the US submitted a post-hearing brief opposing Boone's counsel's motion to suppress. The prosecutors say the housing project apartment's leaseholder Benjamin Fortune had authority to let NYPD search Boone's room - and that Boone "did not object to Fortune's authority to consent to the search."

On April 10, 2024, Judge Gardephe set the trial for May 13: "ORDER as to Deron Boone: Trial is scheduled for May 13, 2024, at 9:30 a.m. Motions in limine, proposed voir dire, and requests to charge are due by April 29, 2024. Responsive papers are due by May 6, 2024. The Government's expert disclosures are due by April 29, 2024. The final pretrial conference is scheduled for May 10, 2024, at 10:00 a.m."

April 15, 2024

After Fentanyl Death in Bronx Daycare New Defendant Amparo Indicted and Detained

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 11 – Following the death of a one-year old baby by fentanyl, on September 19, 2023 the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Grei Mendez and Carlisto Acevedo Brito.

On September 25, with no notice and Inner City Press initially the only person in the courtroom gallery, the third man was brought in: Renny Antonio Parra Paredes. Inner City Press live tweeted, thread:

 Judge Wang: You are charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics. AUSA: We seek detention, and they consent. Defense lawyer: Most of his family is out of town. We consent.

On January 23, Paredes' lawyer argued, and lost, before the assigned District Judge Jed S. Rakoff: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Jed S. Rakoff: Oral Argument as to Felix Herrera Garcia, Grei Mendez, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, Renny Antonio Parra Paredes held on 1/23/2024. The trial date is adjourned to 6/10/2024 and time is excluded in the interest of justice, pursuant to Section 3161 of Title 18. Deft Paredes bail application is denied as a risk of flight and danger to the community. All deft's continued remanded."

On February 12, Inner City Press went to a possible change of counsel hearing on lead defendant Felix Herrera Garcia - but soon Judge Rakoff asked everyone but Herrera Garcia and his still counsel to leave the courtroom, "even my favorite reporter."

Once back in, Judge Rakoff said the problem had been fixed, for now, with a letter possible in two weeks. On fingerprints he noted decisions by Judge Pollack in his native Philadelphia, and the Spain bombing fingerprint snafu. A Daubert hearing on prints is possible.

On March 21, Grei Mendez was brought into the Magistrates Court to be arraigned on a superseding indictment. Inner City Press was there, thread:

Federal Defender: Ms. Grei Mendez' mother and daughters are here in the gallery. Judge: This is an arraignment on a superseding indictment? AUSA: Yes. This adds a count and changes the time frame of the conspiracy.

 Judge: You are charged with conspiracy to distribute fenanyl and an analog, and heroin, to September 2023, deadly. In Sept 2023 you and others possessed with intent to distribute, resulting in death. Count 3 charges serious bodily injury to another individual

Judge: How do you plead?

Grei Mendez:  No culpable [Not guilty] AUSA: We to exclude time under the Speedy Trial Act. Judge: Any objection? Federal Defender: No. Judge: Granted.

Afterward Ms Mendez barely looked at the courtroom gallery as she was led back to the holding cell.

More on Substack here

On April 11 another defendant was added in an S2 indictment: Jean Carlo Amparo Herrera. He was brought into the SDNY Magistrates Court, where Inner City Press was the only media. His lawyer argued that he wasn't charged as the others were, and that she hadn't seen a video the prosecutor mentioned. But he had driven a co-defendant to Pennsylvania after the death, and more. He was detained.

The case is US v. Herrera Garcia et al., 23-cr-504 (Rakoff)

Watch this site.

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April 8, 2024

Bronx Man Arrested With Gun Was Indicted in SDNY Now Moving to Dismiss Citing Bruen

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 30 – Nick Laguna was arrested in front of 751 Dawson Street in the South Bronx in April 6, 2023 with a .25 caliber pistol.

He had previously been convicted of, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison for, manslaughter. 

 On August 24, 2023 Laguna was arraigned before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn. Inner City Press was there, the only media in the SDNY Mag court.  

A woman and an 8-year old girl were the only other people in the Mag court gallery. Both waved at Laguna when he was brought in by US Marshals, in the tan jail uniform of the MDC in Brooklyn (where Sam Bankman-Fried is also detained, although OK-ed to leave daily to meet with his lawyers).

  Laguna pleaded not guilty; his Federal Defender did not make or renew a bail application.

 He was scheduled to be seen by the assigned District Judge Jennifer H. Rearden on September 7, the AUSA said.

Inner City Press attended on September 7. The Federal Defender previewed motions, mention the Second Amendment (the Bruen case?) and asking for a trial date in May 2024. Judge Rearden set a next conference for November 9, at 11:30 am.

At that time, Judge Rearden set a trial date of May 7, 2024, and motions in March.

And on March 30 Laguna's Federal Defenders reiterated his motion to dismiss (and to suppress) citing the Supreme Court's Bruen decision.

The case is US v. Laguna, 23-cr-436 (Rearden / Netburn)

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April 1, 2024


10 Charged With Kidnapping Bronx Minor May Get Co Defendant Meeting in SDNY

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 27 – Ten defendants are charged with conspiracy to kidnap a minor, following a robbery of a marijuana business in The Bronx.   On March 27 they appeared, most of them in custody, before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Chief Judge Laura Taylor Swain. Inner City Press was there. 

 The Assistant US Attorney said that some of the phones have yet to be "cracked" for purposes of discovery. A next conference was set for June 18 at 2:30 pm. 

 One defense lawyer said there is an interest in a co-defendants' meeting, but that he doubted MDC-Brooklyn would agree to host it. Chief Judge Swain asked the Marshals if it would be possible in the courthouse.

   By the proceeding's end, she was told that the Marshals could try to arrange it, if given advance notice. 

 The case is  US v. Castillo, et al., 23-cr-279 (Swain)

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March 25, 2024

Among 16 Bronxites Indicted in Valentine Ave Drug Case Marcus Loses Appeal VICAR Cited

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 21 –  Angel Villafane, previously convicted of a felony, was arrested for having a gun in incidents starting at 97th Street and Second Avenue then 110th Street and the FDR (long barrel firearm)  

  On May 20, 2022 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York  Judge Victor Marrero held a conference. Inner City Press covered it, the only media there.

Jump cut to March 6, 2024 - now it was grown to a 16 defendant indictment: "As alleged, day in and day out, this crew distributed fentanyl, heroin, and crack along several blocks on Valentine Avenue."

Inner City Press went to arraignments including that of Christopher Meadows, who the prosecutor described as an enforcer for the lead named defendant (who was detained on consent).

  Based on medical conditions named in court but which Inner City Press will voluntarily not report, he was ordered bailed on $50,000 bond to his mother's residence in Soundview by Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo. On the day of appeal, the US agreed to release.

On March 15, another co-defendant had a bail hearing before Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron. Inner City Press was there, here

OK - now at bail hearing in Bronx Valentine Ave 16 case - 10 supporters of detained defendant here. Defense: My client could move out of The Bronx, to his mother's on Staten Island, or to a suretor's in Orange County. He's charged with aiding & abetting the use or brandishing of a firearm in connection with narcotics sales

AUSA: We are appealing one order to release: we agreed to release Meadows ["The Enforcer," Inner City Press live tweeted that too]. Defense: My client manages a musician, sells clothing at clubs. He used to be a porter at Tracy Towers [in The Bronx]

AUSA: He possessed a loaded weapon, and sold fentanyl. He faces 360 months to life in prison. Four cooperating witnesses will testify against him, one of them a rival. Another will testify to selling him a gun.

 AUSA: He was arrested with a gun and hollow point bullets, in a bedroom shared with a two year old autistic child. He is a clear and present danger to the community

 Judge: I'm focusing on danger to the community. A gun was found at your residence. I'm ordering detention.

On March 20, co-defendant Damel Marcus asked for release on bail, in Magistrates Court. Inner City Press was there, thread

Late in the day came notice that the defense has appealed to Part I, for March 21. Inner City Press was there, thread:

AUSA: As we put on the record yesterday, there are multiple cooperating witnesses that this defendant was involved in drugs and guns. He joined the crew in 2018. 3 will testify to 2 discharges [of a gun] He fired back at a rival, and another time after a fight

 Judge: When was that?

AUSA: 2020. In a third incident, a crew member was ambushed and knocked to the grounds. Metal chains that had been heated on a space heater were used to beat him. This defendant participated, this beating with heated chains in 2021

Defense: They didn't take that to the grand jury. So this is hearsay, not thought sufficient to take to a grand jury.  Judge: The AUSA says they have cooperating witnesses AUSA: For the VICAR charges we seek, we need approval outside our office

 Defense: This is ipsi dixit! Judge: We have a proffer from the Government. Defense: 49 year olds rarely cut their GPS bracelet, or those with passport issues 

 Judge: I am ordering him to continue to be detained. I am concerned about the firearms discharge, and the wielding of the chains, that he was present. Adjourned

Watch this site.

The case is US v. Villafane, et al., 21-cr-93 (Marrero  / Stein) 

March 18, 2024

Among 16 Bronxites Indicted in Valentine Ave Drug Case One Appeals Detention But Loses

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 15–  Angel Villafane, previously convicted of a felony, was arrested for having a gun in incidents starting at 97th Street and Second Avenue then 110th Street and the FDR (long barrel firearm)  

  On May 20, 2022 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York  Judge Victor Marrero held a conference. Inner City Press covered it, the only media there.

Jump cut to March 6, 2024 - now it was grown to a 16 defendant indictment: "As alleged, day in and day out, this crew distributed fentanyl, heroin, and crack along several blocks on Valentine Avenue."

Inner City Press went to arraignments including that of Christopher Meadows, who the prosecutor described as an enforcer for the lead named defendant (who was detained on consent).

  Based on medical conditions named in court but which Inner City Press will voluntarily not report, he was ordered bailed on $50,000 bond to his mother's residence in Soundview by Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo. On the day of appeal, the US agreed to release.

On March 15, another co-defendant had a bail hearing before Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron. Inner City Press was there, here

OK - now at bail hearing in Bronx Valentine Ave 16 case - 10 supporters of detained defendant here. Defense: My client could move out of The Bronx, to his mother's on Staten Island, or to a suretor's in Orange County. He's charged with aiding & abetting the use or brandishing of a firearm in connection with narcotics sales

AUSA: We are appealing one order to release: we agreed to release Meadows ["The Enforcer," Inner City Press live tweeted that too]. Defense: My client manages a musician, sells clothing at clubs. He used to be a porter at Tracy Towers [in The Bronx]

AUSA: He possessed a loaded weapon, and sold fentanyl. He faces 360 months to life in prison. Four cooperating witnesses will testify against him, one of them a rival. Another will testify to selling him a gun.

 AUSA: He was arrested with a gun and hollow point bullets, in a bedroom shared with a two year old autistic child. He is a clear and present danger to the community

 Judge: I'm focusing on danger to the community. A gun was found at your residence. I'm ordering detention.

March 11, 2024

After NYCHA Extortion Take Down Johnson Pleads Guilty 1st for $54000 Inner City Press 1st

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 7 – For days Inner City Press had heard from its sources there would be a "takedown" on February 6, each SDNY Magistrate Judge would handle seven to 10 defendants.

Arrests happen at 6 am. So at 5:55 am Inner City Press tweeted it, first to X subscribers with the spoiler alert: the expectation was that each of the current or former NYCHA employees would be released on bond the same day.  

And then hours later at 9:39 am the prosecutors announced it. Media rushed around reporting it.  Inner City Press had it first, and after discretely waiting, published it first. Then this thread of presentments, here.

On March 7, less than a month after the take-down, the first guilty plea, by Michael Johnson for taking at least $53,800 in bribes for no-bid contracts worth $283,000.

The case is US v. Johnson, 24-cr-135 (Furman)


 Watch this site - and these feeds: X and  X for subscribers.

And Substack here

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March 4, 2024

Bronx Man Whose Fentanyl Killed 16 Year Old Sex Worker Pleds Guilty Now Asks for 5 Years

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTROOM EXCLUSIVE, Feb 29 – Law enforcement announced the arrest in The Bronx, NY of VIRGIL WARDLOW for paying for sex with a minor with fentanyl-laced pills, saying he "will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo."    Inner City Press was there. Thread here:

Prosecutor says defendant left fentanyl loose in 110 East 177 Street in the Bronx, used anonymized VOIP TextPlus, killed a 19-year-old. Withdrew $40 from TD Bank with CashApp to "date" Victim-2, also paying with (deadly) pills  

Wardlow's girlfriend Ms Casanova is here - his Federal Defender says she works at Nordstrom in "asset protection." They have a 7 year old daughter. Also his mother, who work at the Post Office.

 Federal Defender says Wardlow has an entrepreneurial spirit - but the deal for the 16 year old was someone else's fault, "other people went to that hotel."

  Federal Defender asks for a photo of the minor, says another john may be responsible.

AUSA: The next one paid in cash. It's strict liability, as long as they have contact...  Federal Defender: He could stay with his mother in Brooklyn. Judge: Are there any children there?  

Seems not. Stepfather also works for post office. Federal Defender: He has pills because of 2 car accidents. He wouldn't get therapy in jail. Prosecutor: He sells drugs and buys sex in wherever he lives.  Federal Defender: It was just tobacco leaves

  19 year old died: 16 year old passed out but revived. Judge has stepped out to decide.   Judge is back. Orders detention, danger to community.

Jump cut to October 19, 2023. The case was assigned to District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, who took Wardlaw's guilty plea to Count 1. Inner City Press was there, the only media in the courtroom. Wardlaw's plea deal has a guideline of 188 to 235 months; he has agreed to pay restitution of $17,000 for the 19 year old's funeral costs. Sentencing is set for March 13, 2024 at 11 am.

On February 29, Wardlow's Federal Defender wrote in saying a 60 month sentence is sought, that Wardlow throught he had bought sex with an eighteen year old, not a sixteen year old, and that his pills did not have fentanyl. His father was shot and killed in a robbery in 1998.

More including analysis on Substack here

Bronx Park Motel May 13, 2023 video here
February 26, 2024

In Bronx Killing of Luiz Vargas US Asked 25 Years on Spencer Gets 10 Years and $12000

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Feb 20 – A multi-defendant narcotics conspiracy prosecution centered on the James Monroe Houses in The Bronx now features charges dropped due to a cooperating witness not complying with his cooperation agreement.  

 The overall case is known as US v. Spencer, et al. and Inner City Press has reported on it at every stage, here and here.

On August 30, 2022 lead defendant Nyshiem Spencer before Magistrate Judge Jennifer E. Willis pled guilty to Count 1 of the S3 Superseding Information, "Firearm Offense," with a control date of March 7, 2023.

After Inner City Press published the above, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:  “On October 31, 2017, Nyshiem Spencer opened fire in the courtyard of the Soundview Houses and killed Luis Vargas, who was 16 years old.  Spencer also shot and injured two other people in the courtyard, including a 15-year old child.  Today’s guilty plea shows that we will vigorously investigate and hold accountable those who are responsible for shootings and acts of gang violence in our community."

 Back on March 25 the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York wrote to SDNY Judge Analisa Torres:

"In light of evidence indicating that a cooperating witness (“CW-1”) breached CW-1’s cooperation agreement, the Government has determined that it will not call CW-1 at trial in this case. The Government will provide this evidence, including notes of CW-1’s meetings with the Government, to defense counsel by April 2, 2021.

"Given the foregoing, the Government no longer intends to proceed with respect to Counts Two and Three of the 20 Cr. 78 (AT) Indictment. The Government also no longer plans to proceed on Count Nine of the Indictment with respect to Defendants Nyshiem Spencer, Shalik Jenkins, Nasir Vincent, Allan Gonzalez, and Jonell Danforth. With respect to Defendants Malik Tunstall and Price Tunstall, the Government intends to proceed on Count Nine, but without seeking findings by the jury with respect to drug weight. The Government is evaluating whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed at all with respect to Defendant Shalik Jenkins."   

Earlier in the case, nearly a year ago on March 30, 2020, Inner City Press reported that Assistant US Attorney Justin Rodriguez repeatedly cited a video of which he wrote he would "arrange with the Court's Chambers for the transmission of an electronic version of the video montage, rather than a physical copy." The video was and is as of this writing not in the case's docket on PACER.    Judge Torres relied on this video in denying bond, finding a danger to the community. Minutes later, she approved a switch to CJA lawyer James Branden for co-defendant Lafone Eley.

On October 20, 2021, Lafone Ely came to plead guilty to a single count of attempted bank fraud. When asked to allocute, he said he had gotten the password to a bank account not his own, raised the limit but still hadn't been able to get the money. He got a plea deal with a guideline of nine to 15 months, with a speedy sentencing set for November 9.

On June 7, 2022 Judge Torres imposed time served sentences in the case on Shalik Jenkins and on Ashanae McLaughlin, noting her past as "a Bronx-born basketball star" and relatively lesser role.

On November 1, 2023, Eley got 180 months: "JUDGMENT IN A CRIMINAL CASE as to Stefvon Eley (3). THE DEFENDANT: pleaded guilty to counts lesser included offenses of counts 5 and 7. IMPRISONMENT: 180 months' imprisonment.  The Court recommends that the Defendant serve his sentence at Federal Correctional Complex, Butner (FCC Butner) in Butner, North Carolina."

 On November 17 Judge Torres authorized filming in the courthouse: "ORDER as to Nyshiem Spencer: The United States Marshal Service is hereby directed to bring Defendant Nyshiem Spencer to the United States Courthouse, located at 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY, 10007 for the purpose of facilitating a meeting, which will be recorded, with his mitigation expert, Katherine Carter. Mr. Spencer shall be placed in a room where Mr. Spencer can be recorded for at least two hours, without any barriers between himself and Ms. Carter. The date and time of this meeting is to be coordinated with defense counsel and the United States Marshal Service within one week of the date of this order, and shall take place before December 8, 2023.Katherine Carter will be allowed to enter the United States Courthouse with the computer and video equipment necessary to record Mr. Spencer. This includes: 1. One backpack that includes: a. One DSLR Camera; b. One small pouch that includes two small lavalier microphones, one small receiver microphone, and one audio aux cable; c. Two small light panels; d. Two batteries for camera; e. Two SD cards; f. One pair of headphones; 2. One shoulder bag that includes: a. One camera tripod; b. Two light panel tripods; 3. One MacBook Air computer and Velcro computer case. (Signed by Judge Analisa Torres on 11/17/2023)."

Spencer's father, in Sing Sing, has already been filmed. BOP said filming will not be allowed in the MDC. Hence, in SDNY at 500 Pearl...

On February 6, the US Attorney's Office in a sentencing submission that starts with photos of the murdered Luis Angel Vargas asks for 25 years on Spencer.

On February 20, after Vargas' father spoke, Spencer got 10 years, threadette:

Victim's father: He was shot in the back of the head. This heartless monster wears my son's death as a badge of honor.

AUSA: Ten years is not enough. Luis was going to play Hamlet in the school play. He never will. Mr Vargas also seeks $12,000 restitution.

Spencer: None of this was supposed to happen. I'm not that person. Luiz Vargas was not the target.

Judge: You shot 6 bullets and hit 3 people including 16 year old Luiz Vargas... I sentence you to 10 years

Judge Torres also congratulated Spencer for getting his GED, noting he wants to work in the food industry. She quoted SDNY Judges Oetken and Furman (US v. Chavez) on prison conditions, and Judge Rakoff on the youthful brain.

The case is US v. Spencer, et al., 20-cr-78 (Torres)

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