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Despite investigations, Sepp Blatter re-elected FIFA president

First published: May 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during the 65th FIFA Congress held in Switzerland Friday. He won re-election as FIFA head.

ZURICH — Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA president for a fifth term on Friday, chosen to lead world soccer despite separate U.S. and Swiss criminal investigations into corruption.

The 209 FIFA member federations gave the 79-year-old Blatter another four-year term after Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan conceded defeat after losing 133-73 in the first round.

Prince Ali’s promise of a clean break from FIFA’s tarnished recent history was rejected despite the worst scandal in the organization’s 111-year history.

“I like you, I like my job,” Blatter said to cheering voters. “I am not perfect, nobody is perfect, but we will do a good job together I am sure.”

The election went ahead Friday after U.S. and Swiss federal investigations struck at the heart of Blatter’s “football family” this week. Two FIFA vice presidents and a recently elected FIFA executive committee member were still in custody Friday as the votes were counted.

Still, soccer leaders worldwide stayed loyal to their embattled president of 17 years, even though Prince Ali pushed the election to a second round by getting a surprising 73 votes.

Before the second round started, Prince Ali stood before the congress and conceded.

“I want to thank all of you who were brave enough to support me,” said the prince, who previously spoke of a culture of intimidation at FIFA. “It’s been a wonderful journey in terms of knowing you, working with you.”

Blatter has blamed others for bringing shame and humiliation on the sport. In a pre-election address to voters on Friday, Blatter said it was “impossible” for him and FIFA to “keep an eye” on everyone and be responsible for everything that happened in world soccer.

Blatter won despite calls for his resignation from UEFA president Michel Platini and others. Platini said Thursday that UEFA could pull out of FIFA and withdraw from the World Cup if Blatter was re-elected.

FIFA’s big-money sponsors have also called for change within FIFA. Visa warned Thursday that it could pull out of its contract, which is worth at least $25 million a year through 2022.

In what appeared to be warning to UEFA, Blatter pledged to change the representation of his influential executive committee, where Europe currently has eight of 25 voting members.

Platini sat still and did not clap during Blatter’s post-victory speech.

Blatter also said he would retain a 32-team World Cup and resist expanding what is FIFA’s cash cow.

The defeated 39-year-old prince was a FIFA vice president for the past four years with a close-up view of Blatter’s previous scandal-hit mandate.

Blatter was re-elected unopposed in 2011 after promising to fight corruption and support key investigations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests and a bribery scandal which removed his Qatari opponent from the presidential ballot.

Those probes were conducted in-house by FIFA’s own judicial bodies. The latest investigations promise deeper trouble for FIFA with federal law enforcement agencies delving into soccer’s affairs.

Raids on FIFA’s favorite luxury downtown Zurich hotel and its own headquarters were launched early Wednesday by Swiss police.

Senior FIFA officials were among seven men arrested at the request of American federal prosecutors investigating bribery, money-laundering and wire fraud. The 2018 and 2022 World Cups — awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively — are the focus of a separate Swiss federal probe of suspected financial wrongdoing.

Last November, Blatter and FIFA filed a criminal complaint with the Swiss attorney general’s office against non-Swiss nationals.


Watertown woman gets 25-year sentence in boyfriend’s fatal stabbing

First published: May 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm

WATERTOWN — A city woman was sentenced Friday in Jefferson County Court to the maximum sentence of 25 years in state prison for causing her boyfriend’s death by stabbing him in 2013.

Breanna L. Simpson, 33, was also ordered to undergo five additional years of supervision upon her release. She was found guilty May 7 of first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the June 23, 2013, stabbing death of Henry J. Perkins Jr., 34. At trial, she faced the more serious charge of second-degree murder, but the jury was allowed to consider the lesser count of manslaughter.

Prior to sentencing being pronounced, Mr. Perkins’s mother, Sharon L. Perkins, and sister, Sherry, described Mr. Perkins as a loving son, brother and parent and asked Judge Kim H. Martusewicz to impose the maximum sentence possible.

“My family misses Junior every day — his smile and his laugh,” Mrs. Perkins. “He was a great son and brother.”

Trial testimony revealed that Simpson previously had injured Mr. Perkins by stabbing him in September 2012, and Mrs. Perkins said she had implored her son not to move into a J.B. Wise Place apartment with her, fearing that she would stab him again. She said she envisioned something similar occurring years down the road, but the fatal stabbing took place just 23 days after he moved into the apartment.

“We will never forgive Ms. Simpson for what she has taken away from our family,” Mrs. Perkins said. “This is a woman with no heart or remorse.”

Her daughter described Mr. Perkins as being “not only my brother, he was my best friend.” Ms. Perkins said she was aware of her brother’s volatile relationship with Simpson, but said he told her that he stayed in the relationship because he believed he could help Simpson.

“Our family has been dealt the harshest sentence allowed: a life without Henry,” the younger woman told Judge Martusewicz. “Simply stated, our lives will never be the same.”

Trial testimony showed that Mr. Perkins had from blood loss hours before any medical care was summoned and that Simpson, with the help of a 9-year-old girl present at the apartment at the time, spent a significant amount of time trying to clean up blood at the scene. The girl testified that Mr. Perkins repeatedly stated, “I’m going to die,” and begged Simpson to call 911 before he died.

Instead, according to testimony, Simpson called an ex-boyfriend, Charles McIntosh, to the apartment, claiming she needed bandages. When Mr. McIntosh arrived, he placed the 911 call summoning help. Testimony also revealed that Simpson told police that she came home and found Mr. McIntosh in her apartment and that he was responsible for stabbing Mr. Perkins.

A sobbing Simpson repeatedly stated, “I’m sorry. I’m just so, so sorry,” maintaining that the stabbing was an accident, the same claim she made about the 2012 stabbing.

“I would like to say to the family that it really was an accident and I did try to save his life,” Simpson said. “I just want them to know that I did try to help.”

Simpson called Mr. Perkins “the most beautiful” person she knew and said, “I wish that I had died that day” instead of Mr. Perkins.

“I feel guilty that I’m going to go on and live and that he isn’t going to go on and live,” she said. “Junior deserved to live more than I did. He had a loving family who loved him.”

In pronouncing the maximum sentence, Judge Martusewicz said he considered Simpson’s prior stabbing of Mr. Perkins, as well as the testimonials from his mother and sister as to the kind of person he was.

“I would also note that Junior, as he was dying from this mortal wound inflicted by the defendant, tried to comfort a 9-year-old girl. To me, that speaks volumes about Junior,” the judge said.

Outside the courtroom after sentencing, Mrs. Perkins said she found Simpson’s apologies to the family hollow. “She’s a fake and she’ll always be a fake,” Mrs. Simpson. “If she really says she tried to save my son, why didn’t she call 911 to try to save him.”

However, Mrs. Perkins said she and her family were satisfied with the sentence pronounced.

“We’d rather she spend the rest of her life in jail, but 25 years is better than nothing,” she said.


Two men burned in Canton explosion

First published: May 29, 2015 at 1:22 pm
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm

CANTON — Two Canton men suffered second- and third-degree burns when the barrel they were putting brush in exploded during the noon hour Friday.

Authorities said James L. Hance, 50, of Lot 21, and Timothy H. Cota, 40, of Lot 9 in the Jameson Road Trailer Park, Canton, were putting the brush in a barrel that contained kerosene, and there was a flash that caused an explosion.

Both men were transported to Canton-Potsdam Hospital, where they were expected to be flown to a burn center in Syracuse

A third man, Joshua Bonomo, 26, of Lot 24, sustained cuts to his hands and knees. He was treated at the scene and released.

“They had an old fuel drum. They were burning brush off, and there was this explosion. Their shirts were on fire ... they were on fire,” Mr. Bonomo said.

Mr. Hance and Mr. Cota fell to the ground, and Mr. Bonomo tried to extinguish the flames.

“I just feel bad that I couldn’t put it out fast enough,” he said.


5 pilots say a green laser was pointed at their planes in NY, NJ areas

First published: May 29, 2015 at 12:57 pm
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 12:57 pm

FARMINGDALE — Five pilots have reported that a green laser was pointed at their planes while they were flying over New York and New Jersey.

No injuries were reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it happened to four planes over Long Island between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday, about four miles northwest of Farmingdale.

According to CBS New York another incident occurred around 11:30 p.m. Thursday near Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

The FAA alerted state police.

Pointing a laser at a plane is a federal crime.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer says the use of green laser pointers is on the rise and they should be banned.

Schumer says they’re brighter and potentially more dangerous to the eye than red lasers.


Woman accused of killing fiance on Hudson pleads not guilty

First published: May 29, 2015 at 12:53 pm
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 12:53 pm

GOSHEN — A woman accused of killing her fiance by sabotaging his kayak on the Hudson River has pleaded not guilty.

Angelika Graswald was arraigned Friday morning in Orange County Court. Her lawyer entered the plea on murder and manslaughter charges.

Her bail remains $3 million.

Graswald is charged in the April 19 death of Vincent Viafore, whose body was found last weekend in the river near West Point.

Prosecutors say she removed a drain plug from Viafore’s kayak, then delayed calling for help and pushed a floating paddle away from him as he struggled in the water. She allegedly told investigators she was happy to know he was going to die.

Graswald’s lawyer says the death was an accident. He says he’s skeptical of prosecution claims she admitted wrongdoing.


Upstate congressman wants uniform drug standards in horse racing

First published: May 29, 2015 at 12:01 pm
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 12:01 pm

NEW YORK — An upstate congressman plans to introduce a bill establishing uniform drug and medication standards in thoroughbred racing that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Paul Tonko, a Schenectady-area Democrat whose district includes Saratoga Race Course, made the announcement in Washington on Friday.

He said the racing industry has been regulated on a state-by-state basis with a patchwork of rules and penalties, and it’s time to set a fair playing field at racetracks nationwide.

The legislation would allow the USADA to create a drug agency specifically for racing. The USADA, an independent agency, is the national anti-doping organization in the U.S. for the Olympics.

Tonko wants to present the bill — the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Anti-Doping Act of 2015 — to the House of Representatives in the next few weeks.

Also, the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity has been formed as a support group. It includes The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup Ltd., the Humane Society of the United States and the Water Hay Oats Alliance.

Rules, penalties and tests often vary in each racing jurisdiction. For years, several racing bodies have been studying ways to establish one set of rules and regulations for all tracks.

“A single, national approach to medication and drug testing with strong independent oversight and enforcement is long overdue,” Tonko said in a statement, “and will help ensure the industry’s long-term viability, including enhancing the care and welfare of horses.”

Horse racing has been under scrutiny for years because of numerous medication violations, even among top trainers, including Steve Asmussen, Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott and Bob Baffert. Penalties, such as fines and suspensions, have been inconsistent.

“USADA supports this piece of legislation,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “It is our hope that the model of independence, harmonization and enforcement of robust anti-doping programs envisioned through this legislation can be realized to finally truly protect the health of the athletes and the integrity of the competition.”

Tonko said the legislation would give the USADA authority over rulemaking, testing and enforcement.

“While the nation’s spotlight will be on American Pharoah and Belmont Park in the coming days, the thoroughbred industry is a year-round enterprise,” Tonko said. “There is much at stake, with the thoroughbred industry contributing $25 billion to the U.S. economy annually and nearly 4,000 jobs, including many in the Saratoga Springs area that I represent.”

In his closing remarks at last summer’s Round Table Conference at Saratoga, Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps said the USADA would “bring credibility, integrity, and objectivity to our sport.”

“With the safety of our horses, and the general integrity of the sport all at risk, we cannot afford to wait any longer,” he added.


US removes Cuba from terror list

First published: May 29, 2015 at 11:33 am
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 11:33 am

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has taken Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Secretary of State John Kerry has signed an order removing Cuba from the U.S. terrorism blacklist as part of the process of normalizing relations between the Cold War foes.

Kerry acted 45 days after the Obama administration informed Congress of its intent to do so. Lawmakers had that much time to weigh in and try to block the move, but did not do so.

The step comes as officials from the countries continue to hash out details of restoring full diplomatic relations, including opening embassies in Washington and Havana and returning ambassadors to the two countries. Friday’s removal of Cuba from the terrorism list had been a key Cuban demand.


New York cracks down on drivers for passing stopped school buses

First published: May 29, 2015 at 10:39 am
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 10:39 am

ALBANY — State traffic safety officials say they’re serious about enforcing laws against passing stopped school buses.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee says police issued 1,186 tickets to drivers for illegally passing a stopped school bus on April 16, the date of an annual safety initiative.

State officials say there are 2.3 million students in New York who ride school buses each day. And they estimate that roughly 50,000 drivers illegally pass stopped school buses in New York every day.

Passing a stopped school bus can cost drivers five points on their licenses. Fines start at $250.


State Police to hold news conference on fatal Oswego County shooting

First published: May 29, 2015 at 10:26 am
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 10:26 am

OSWEGO — The New York State Police, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office and the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office will hold a joint news conference this morning to discuss the death investigation of a 58-year-old man fatally shot by a deputy.

Officials said David Schwalm was armed with a long gun when he was shot three weeks ago in the rural town of Constantia, 15 miles north of Syracuse on Oneida Lake. The shooting occurred after deputies were called to check on the welfare of a person, which turned out to be Schwalm.

Oswego County authorities haven’t released any other details, including the name of the deputy who shot Schwalm.

The press conference is slated for 10:30 a.m. at the Public Safety Center in Oswego.


Syracuse man convicted in 1992 ax murder charged in fatal arson

First published: May 29, 2015 at 10:23 am
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 10:23 am

SYRACUSE — A Syracuse man convicted of killing his roommate with an ax more than 20 years ago has been charged in a fire that killed a man.

Syracuse police say 48-year-old Shaun Bowen was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree murder and arson.

Police say he was an overnight guest at the house and set it on fire May 2 after he was repeatedly asked to leave. The blaze killed 49-year-old Richard Fabrizio.

Authorities have also charged Bowen with attempted arson in two other fires in Syracuse.

Bowen served prison time after he was convicted in the 1992 killing of his roommate, Anton Nesper. The 36-year-old man was hit with an ax and stabbed during a fight.

It’s unclear if Bowen has an attorney who could comment on the charges.


Sen. Ritchie has questions over assembly bill giving OBPA more borrowing power

First published: May 29, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: May 29, 2015 at 9:27 am

OGDENSBURG — State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, says she needs more time to ensure that the rights of the taxpayers are fully protected before backing a bill pending in the state Assembly that would allow the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority to bond up to $100 million for infrastructure projects and other expenses.

Assembly Bill A0565 calls for amending the public authorities law as it relates to bonds of the Ogdensburg Bridge Authority and repealing section 706 of the Public Authorities Law.

According to a summary text of the proposed law posted on the state Assembly’s website, the update would allow the OBPA to issue bonds for up to $100 million to finance needed capital projects.

The bonding authority update is needed, according to the bill, because as the operator of the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge, the Port of Ogdensburg, the New York and Ogdensburg Railway, the Ogdensburg International Airport, and two industrial parks, the OBPA needs the ability to keep its facilities in their best condition.

“It is the responsibility of the Authority to conduct such maintenance and ensure the upkeep of all their facilities,” the bill reads. “However, the current bonding language of the Authority contained in Section 706 of the Public Authorities Law is out of date and needs to be updated. Therefore, at the request of the Authority, this bill repeals Section 706 of the Public Authorities Law, which contains the old bonding language, and adds a new section to Public Authorities Law, Section 736, which provides new and up to date bonding language for the Authority so that the Authority can undertake necessary capital improvement projects.”

The same bill, or a variation of it, has not yet been introduced in the state Senate.

Mrs. Ritchie, who said she is a strong supporter of bridge and port operations in Ogdensburg and the role the authority plays in the north country’s economy, said she has not yet backed the Assembly bill because she has questions about how the authority would use its ability to borrow tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

She said it is also her duty as a public servant to make sure OBPA has the means to pay back any money it borrows.

“I think $100 million is an awful lot of money,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “Because of that, I’ve met with representatives (of the OBPA) and have asked some questions about how the money will be spent and how the money can be repaid.”

There are just 10 days left in the state’s legislative session before summer recess, meaning that Mrs. Ritchie’s decision on supporting the bill as it is, or introducing an amended version, hinges on the OBPA providing her with the requested information as soon as possible.

Mrs. Ritchie said having a detailed plan of how the OBPA will spend any money it borrows, and a detailed plan for paying back the funds, are necessary to win her support and to give her the ability to lobby on the bill’s behalf should her Senate colleagues have questions.

“I will put the bill in if I get justification on how the money will be spent,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Executive Director Wade A. Davis said having the ability to more easily borrow money will be instrumental to the success of some of the authority’s pending projects, such as a $10 million expansion of the Ogdensburg International Airport and upgrades to facilities at the Port of Ogdensburg.

Although state and federal money is pending for both projects, he said the OBPA is required to spend its own money first on those and other projects before receiving reimbursement from the appropriate government agencies.

The project is part of a long-term plan to attract larger air service carriers and could result in an additional 40,000 passengers at the airport each year, according to OBPA officials.

Mr. Davis said changing the public authority law to make it easier for the OBPA to bond for major projects is a key component of the airport project and other future expansion initiatives aimed at bolstering the region’s economy.

“The reason we need the bonding language change is so we can do what we need to do to create jobs here,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Davis declined on Thursday to provide details of the OBPA’s current budget and the authority’s current bonding capacity. However, he said much of that information has already been sent to Mrs. Ritchie’s office for consideration.

“It is my understanding that this information was provided to the senator yesterday evening,” Mr. Davis said in an email. “I’ll verify, but I believe the senator already has this information.”


Cuomo pushes plan to keep youths out of prison

First published: May 29, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: May 28, 2015 at 10:13 pm

COXSACKIE — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo visited a state prison in the Hudson Valley on Thursday, met with three 17-year-old inmates and ended the tour by repeating his call for keeping the youngest law breakers from adult prisons.

During two hours at the medium-security Greene Correctional Facility, about 25 miles south of Albany, Cuomo walked through a wing of the disciplinary housing unit, where up to 200 prisoners are confined in pairs for 22 hours a day in small cells and for two hours can exit onto even smaller caged balconies.

The governor was accompanied by corrections officials and some of his own staff. He greeted guards, said hello to inmates pressed against the small windows of their locked cells, and met separately with some corrections officers and the teens to ask about their experiences.

Currently, the state’s prisons have fewer than 100 inmates under age 18, including 49 at Greene, according to prison officials. Ten were in disciplinary housing Thursday.

Other young teens are in county jails or Rikers Island in New York City, awaiting trials or serving shorter sentences.

“Most New Yorkers don’t ever experience walking through a prison facility, a corrections facility,” Cuomo said afterward. “If you did you would feel how intimidating, frightening, threatening an environment it is.”

The governor is advocating legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 for many crimes. The move would spare more minors from adult prisons and jails.

Cuomo called on the Senate and Assembly to work out their differences on the issue and decide what level of crime should put teens in family court and which of the more serious offenses should keep them in adult courts and lockups.

“In my opinion, it is too early to condemn a 16-year-old to a life without redemption,” Cuomo said.

Only North Carolina and New York do that, he said, adding that a second chance is not only morally right but makes more economic sense than paying $50,000 a year for 50 years for a prison cell.

The cells in the disciplinary housing unit are each about 8 feet wide and 14 feet deep, with bunk beds, a long desk with two attached seats, a shower and a toilet.

Cuomo looked through an empty cell and walked up and down a wing of cells, where pairs of inmates pressed against small, permanently closed windows to see the group go by. Nearly all were black.

Commitments to the disciplinary unit vary, often 15 or 30 days for fighting, but can last months, such as for a serious stabbing, Superintendent Brandon Smith said. A committee meets weekly to review the inmates’ status.

The governor shook hands with all the prison staff he met or passed, thanking them, and said hello to inmates as well through their windows. Many greeted him back. Others stared.

The prison holds about 1,500 inmates serving sentences for such crimes as robbery and burglary, corrections officials said.

Mental health counselors told Cuomo that about 180 inmates are on psychotropic medications, including antidepressants, that excessive anxiety and depression are the most common problems and that the occasional inmate suffers from psychosis and bipolar disorder.

A group of corrections officers told Cuomo that fighting stems partly from gang affiliations and partly from the youth and impulsiveness of the inmates, where incidents can escalate fast. Most at Greene are under 21, Smith said.

The guards also said they need more staff.

Cuomo noted that revisions in the Rockefeller drug laws over two decades have taken about 18,000 nonviolent inmates out of New York’s prison system, leaving a smaller, more violent population. His administration is funding 100 additional corrections officers for the system this year, he said.

Greene has 631 staff, including 487 in security. It has about 800 inmates in school, about 760 taking high school equivalency courses and about 150 of them in special education. About 40 are taking Siena College classes, according to Greene officials.

Guards said some new drugs, including synthetic marijuana, have become a problem the past two years and make some inmates particularly violent. The double bunking in the disciplinary unit, especially on hot days, also often leads to fighting, guards said.

The three 17-year-olds who met with the governor told him they previously spent time in juvenile detention facilities. All were housed in dormitories, not disciplinary housing.

Xavier Pirela of Troy, serving up to two years for attempted robbery, said Greene has more programs, including a class in electrical work that he took for seven or eight months. “That was good. It taught me a lot,” he said.

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