Tag Archives: Al Sharpton

Mother of slain National Guardsman vows justice despite grand jury ruling

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Even after the verdict was final, Cecilia Reyes vowed her son would get justice.

Reyes, the mother of Noel Polanco, the 22-year-old National Guardsman who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway on October 4, was outraged by the court’s ruling that her son’s killer would not be tried.

On February 14, after five weeks of deliberations, a Queens grand jury determined criminal charges would not be filed against Hassan Hamdy, the NYPD officer who fatally shot Polanco. In a statement, District Attorney Richard A. Brown indicated he would not provide the reason behind the grand jury’s decision and called Polanco’s death “a tragedy.”
Regardless of the ruling, Reyes remained determined to ensure her son, who aspired to become a police officer, did not die in vain.

Joined by Polanco’s sister Amanda, Reyes addressed the grand jury’s ruling at the National Action Network’s (NAN) Harlem headquarters on February 16. NAN founder the Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy at Polanco’s funeral and has remained invested in the case.

“I’m very upset. I’m very, very angry at the justice system,” said Reyes. “I’m angry. I’m hurt. They didn’t do the justice that they needed to do for my son. But I’m not giving up. I’m continuing on and I’m going to fight with every being in my life.”

Polanco was pulled over when he was spotted driving erratically in his black 2012 Honda Fit, weaving between lanes and speeding on the Grand Central Parkway before allegedly cutting off an unmarked police vehicle. Hamdy allegedly fired the single shot that killed Polanco when he told him to put his hands on the steering wheel and Polanco reached under the seat. Testimony from two eye witnesses driving with Polanco, Diane DeFerrari, a bartender and Polanco’s neighbor, and Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer, persisted with the claim that Polanco followed orders from the officer.

No weapon was discovered in Polanco’s car.

“My son had no weapon and yet the officer gets away with this,” said Reyes. “If it was to be someone else in the street, right away they would prosecute this kid – this officer was still a murderer, no matter what.”

According to reports, the family intends to pursue the case in civil court.



Unarmed national guardsman killed by police is laid to rest

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

“We just want justice,” whispered a cousin of Noel Polanco’s during his funeral service. “That’s it. Justice.”

Hundreds of friends and family members filled the Eternal Love Baptist Church in Corona on Friday morning to bid a final goodbye to Noel Polanco, the 22-year-old national guardsman, killed by a police officer during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway on October 4.

Melvin Morgan, who works with the victim’s mother at Elmhurst Hospital, stood outside the church before the service holding a sign that read “Stop police brutality now.” Morgan lamented the upswing in police involved shootings in the city where innocent lives were lost.

“Every week, there’s a police involved shooting,” said Morgan. “It needs to stop. We’re tired of it – [Polanco] was a very nice gentleman. He was very humble, very honest and everyone in the neighborhood loved him.”

Escorted by eulogist Reverend Al Sharpton, Polanco’s mother, Cecilia Reyes, clutched the civil rights figure as they led the funeral procession into the church.

Throughout the service, friends recalled moments spent with Polanco, fixing up cars and sketching tattoo designs. Polanco belonged to the “Center of Attention” car club and worked four jobs to pay for a new Honda Fit Hybrid. When friends called Polanco, needing a ride at 4 a.m., he came through, never asking for anything in return.

Army officers spoke of Polanco’s dedication and eagerness to assist others – particularly families’ whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Irene.

“He was a proactive young man, easy for a smile, respectful, ready to work and always willing to do what was asked of him,” said Lieutenant Colonel James Freehart, Polanco’s battalion commander.

During the service, Polanco was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant.

Sharpton delivered the eulogy, emphasizing the need for resolution and fairness as investigation into the case progresses.

“As we celebrate the homecoming of Noel, it is time for the city to deal with the issue of justice,” said Sharpton. “You’ve taken her baby. Can you at least give her some justice?”

Just a day after meeting with the Queens district attorney, Reyes spoke of her son’s kind heart and strong spirit.

“I will always miss him and I’m never going to see him again,” said Reyes. “But, I know we will be together again.”

Whitney Houston funeral: mourners pay tribute to legendary singer at Newark church

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Whitney Houston funeral: mourners pay tribute to legendary singer at Newark church

The silver casket bearing Whitney Houston glistened Saturday inside her old Newark church, where a star-studded crowd bid farewell to the departed diva with the divine voice.

“What becomes of our broken hearts?” asked her “Bodyguard” co-star Kevin Costner in a moving memorial. “Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began.”

Read More: New York Daily News


Timothy Cardinal Dolan receives red hat from Pope Benedict in Vatican City

Timothy Cardinal Dolan says his new red hat from Pope Benedict XVI is a gift for New York.

The city’s newly-elevated Catholic leader was smiling from cheek to cheek Saturday after receiving a gold ring and red silk biretta from the pontiff inside St. Peter’s Basilica inVatican  City.

Read More: New York Daily News
Cocaine found on capsized cruise ship captain’s hair, lawyers for survivors say
A group representing survivors of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship say traces of cocaine were found on a sample of the captain’s hair but not within the hair strands or in his urine — which would have indicated he had used the drug.

Italian consumer protection group Codacons said Saturday it has asked prosecutors investigating Captain Francesco Schettino to order another test.

Read More: New York Post


DOE To Review 1,000 Cases Against School Staff Following Latest Sex Abuse Charges

The city Department of Education is promising to make major changes in disciplinary policy following a string of arrests of employees for inappropriate acts with children.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott outlined the changes in a letter sent home to parents Friday.

Read More: NY 1


Spit hits fan in teach spat

 A veteran Queens math teacher was yanked from the classroom yesterday after a cellphone video posted online showed an apparent confrontation with a student.

Department of Education officials said they are investigating 19-year veteran David Pecoraro, a vocal union leader at Beach Channel HS in Far Rockaway, on allegations of corporal punishment.

Read More: New York Post


Liu Fundraiser Pleads Not Guilty To Wire Fraud Charges

Xing Wu Pan, a major fundraiser for City Comptroller John Liu, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud charges during his arraignment in Downtown Manhattan on Saturday.

Prosecutors say Oliver Pan told an undercover FBI agent he would use straw donors to funnel $16,000 in over-the-limit contributions to the comptroller’s 2013 campaign.

Read More: NY 1


Al Sharpton’s SUV impounded at La Guardia Airport

Can I get a witness?

The Rev. Al Sharpton tried to move heaven and earth yesterday to keep his SUV from being towed at La Guardia Airport — but no amount of preaching could stop Port Authority cops from impounding the vehicle.

An officer rolled up on the 2008 Lincoln Navigator at around 2 p.m. outside the Delta and US Airways terminal as the MSNBC host’s driver waited to pick him up in a clearly marked “no standing” zone, said PA Police spokesman Al Della Fave.

Read More: New York Post


Racist headline after Jeremy Lin, Knicks lose prompts quick apology from ESPN

ESPN is apologizing for an offensive headline posted after Jeremy Lin and the Knicks fell to the Hornets Friday night, ending a dazzling 7-game win streak.

The headline, “Ch-k in the armor” was up for about 30 minutes before being pulled down, ESPN said in a statement, as the controversy continued to grow in volume on Saturday.

Read More: New York Daily News

Quinn puts pressure on MSG and Time Warner Cable

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Quinn puts pressure on MSG and Time Warner Cable

Linsanity has spread to city government. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn fired off letters yesterday to the two top executives of Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Garden, warning they’ll face a public grilling if Knick and Ranger games aren’t restored to more than 2 million blacked-out cable subscribers. “It has been reported that discussions between the two sides have recently taken place for the first time in nearly two months,” Quinn wrote MSG Chairman James Dolan and Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt. Read More: New York Post

Al Sharpton’s SUV impounded at La Guardia Airport

The Rev. Al Sharpton tried to move heaven and earth yesterday to keep his SUV from being towed at La Guardia Airport — but no amount of preaching could stop Port Authority cops from impounding the vehicle. An officer rolled up on the 2008 Lincoln Navigator at around 2 p.m. outside the Delta and US Airways terminal as the MSNBC host’s driver waited to pick him up in a clearly marked “no standing” zone, said PA Police spokesman Al Della Fave. Read More: New York Post


Former Met Gary Carter succumbs to brain cancer

Forever known as “the Kid,” former Mets catcher Gary Carter died at 4:10 p.m. on February 16 after battling brain cancer. He was 57. A key cog on the Mets’ 1986 championship team, the man best known for his leadership and clutch hitting was diagnosed with the disease after doctors discovered inoperable tumors on his brain in May 2011. After an MRI revealed new tumors in January 2012, his condition worsened. Read More: Queens Courier


Mets Fans Mourn Former Catcher Gary Carter

Gary Carter’s hit with two outs in the 10th inning of game six of the 1986 World Series started the comeback against the Red Sox, which led to the ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs. The rest is history. “The Mets would not have won the world series in 1986 were it not for Gary Carter,” said WFAN host Ed Randall. “He was a hero to so many people,” said one New Yorker. Read More: NY1


Whitney Houston was on downward spiral in months leading to death: report

Whitney Houston’s downward spiral began months before she was found lifeless in a hotel bathtub, a new report says. Sources told Star magazine that the pop icon had spent the last three months of her life boozing, using cocaine, taking pills and partying. “The last three months of Whitney’s life were truly tragic,” one source told the tabloid, which published the report on Radar Online Friday. Another source reportedly said that Houston got “buck wild” at the Playhouse nightclub in Hollywood on Jan. 2. Read More: Daily News
Bone marrow donors sought for 6-year-old son of New York City firefighter, stricken with leukemia

He helped protect the city and now a retired Brooklyn firefighter hopes the city will turn out Saturday to help his dying 6-year-old son. Kevin Flood, a retired firefighter from Engine 210 in Fort Greene, was part of the search and rescue mission at Ground Zero after 9/11 that sickened so many of his colleagues. He is in fine health. But his son, Colin, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia the night before Christmas. Read More: Daily News

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes remembers Howard Beach trial

| jlent@homereporternews.com

In 1987, Charles Hynes was vacationing upstate when he received word he would be the chief prosecutor in the trial of a racially motivated slaying of a 23-year-old African-American man in the Howard Beach section of Queens.

“I was watching a TV news special in the library of this hotel,” Hynes recalled. “And I saw the crowd at Howard Beach chanting, ‘Haven’t you heard? Howard Beach isn’t Johannesberg.’ At that moment there was an announcement. I was wanted on the phone.”

When he picked up the receiver, Hynes, then a special state prosecutor for then-Governor Mario Cuomo, was assigned to what would become his most famous case — the December 20, 1986 slaying of Michael Griffith, and the assault and harassment of two other men in Howard Beach by a group of white males. The incident incited racial tensions across the city — with demonstrations like the one Hynes witnessed, led by the Reverend Al Sharpton, becoming a common sight.

Twenty-five years later, Hynes who is now the district attorney for Kings County, recalls how difficult the laws of the time made it for him to get a felony conviction.

“There wasn’t a question in my mind [that it was a racially motivated attack],” he said. “But we didn’t charge it as a hate crime because a hate crime at the time was a misdemeanor.”

Unable to argue the case as the racially-motivated felony he claims it would be today, Hynes had to prove the defendant’s guilt as if it were a typical murder charge. In order to do so, he relied on the testimony of one of the attackers.

“The evidence I had was [from] one of the people who was involved in the case,” Hynes said. “We had him plead to a lesser charge in order to get his cooperation. Without his testimony, there would have been no conviction.”

After an 11-day deliberation period, which he reports was the “the longest ever at the time for a Queens criminal trial jury,” the State Supreme Court in Queens convicted Jon Lester, Jason Ladone, Scott Kern and Michael Pirone with manslaughter, second degree murder and first degree assault.

Hynes, who went on to write a book about the case, credits it as a major reason for acquiring his current position.

“There’s no question the celebrity that came out of it was as responsible as anything in getting me elected district attorney in 1989,” he said. “I was in people’s living rooms for three months.”