NYC terror attack victim’s parents plan to sue city

By Bruce Golding; November 21, 2017 5:42pm

https://nypost.com/2017/11/21/nyc-terror-attack-victims-parents-plan-to-sue-city/

The parents of a victim in last month’s terrorist truck attack along Manhattan’s west side bike path filed notice Tuesday that they plan to sue the city over his grisly death.

Barbara and James Drake allege that officials were “grossly negligent” for “failing to remedy the known occurrence of frequent motor vehicles entering the bike path.”

Paperwork served on city Comptroller Scott Stringer and the Hudson River Park Trust says 32-year-old Darren Drake of New Milford, New Jersey, suffered “extensive trauma” along with “fear and terror of the impending incident” when he and seven others were fatally mowed down on Oct. 31.

“My clients are heartbroken because this terrible tragedy was 100 percent preventable,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Rosemarie Arnold said.

The Drakes also plan to sue the state and filed similar paperwork with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, she said. Their eventual suit will also target Home Depot, from which accused killer Sayfullo Saipov rented the flatbed truck used in the bloody attack, Arnold said.

Saipov, 29, allegedly shouted “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” – when he hopped out of the rented flatbed truck brandishing pellet and paintball guns following the carnage, that also left more than a dozen others injured.

The immigrant from Uzbekistan was busted when a cop on patrol nearby shot him in the gut, and allegedly asked for an ISIS flag to decorate his hospital room.

Authorities installed concrete barriers at 57 spots along the pathway afterward.

Last week, The Post revealed that data obtained by the NYC Park Advocates group showed 50 motorists were ticketed for driving on the path — and one was busted for driving while intoxicated — between January and October.

Stringer’s office and the Park Trust — which oversees the bike path for the city and state — declined to comment, while Scheiderman’s office didn’t return an inquiry.

A Home Depot spokesman noted that the company “cooperated with law enforcement throughout this ordeal to help them with their investigation.”

New Milford parents of terror attack victim intend to sue New York City

Joshua Jongsma, Staff Writer; Published 6:07 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2017; Updated 4:02 p.m. ET Nov. 22, 2017

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/new-milford/2017/11/21/new-milford-parents-terror-attack-victim-intend-sue-new-york-city/887019001/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/11/21/nyc-terror-attack-victims-parents-sue-city/887635001/

The parents of a New Milford man killed in the New York City terrorist attack on Halloween intend to sue the city and multiple departments citing an unsafe environment that contributed to the attack.

Darren Drake, 32, was one of eight people killed on Oct. 31, when authorities say Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbekistan immigrant from Paterson, sped down a bike path in lower Manhattan in a truck he rented from The Home Depot. He allegedly knocked down pedestrians and cyclists, including Drake, before ramming a school bus.

Also Tuesday, Saipov was charged in Manhattan federal court with providing material support to the Islamic State group, along with eight counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering. Numerous counts carry a potential penalty of death.

Drake’s parents, James and Barbara, are seeking monetary damages from the City of New York and its Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation, and the Hudson River Park Trust.

According to the notice to sue issued Tuesday by attorney Rosemarie Arnold, representing the Drake family, the agencies being sued were “grossly negligent” in the operation of the bike path.

Officials responsible for the path did not recognize vehicles had “easy access” to the path and did not install barriers that could have blocked entry, according to the intent to sue document.

“All of the above entities were instrumental in creating and constructing the bike path, which should have been free and clear of vehicular traffic,” Arnold stated in an email to NorthJersey.com. “All of the above mentioned entities were aware that vehicles regularly either mistakenly or purposefully used the bike path but did nothing to curtail that problem. The terrorist, who did a test run of his terror mission, knew in advance that he would have unfettered access to the plaintiff and other victims.”

Messages left for the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which handles claims for and against the city, were not immediately returned.

A 2003 graduate of New Milford High School, Drake lived most of his life in the borough. He was pursuing a second master’s degree in technology management from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, and was a program manager for Moody’s Analytics at the World Trade Center.

“Darren was a highly educated, well-loved, successful 32-year-old man who was a happy, positive person who used biking as a means to stay healthy in mind and body,” Arnold stated. “His parents are heartbroken, especially since this terrible tragedy was completely preventable.”

A message left for James Drake on Tuesday night was not returned.

Darren Drake rode his bike on the lower Manhattan path every day to stay slim, Arnold said. On the morning of the attack he spoke to his mother and was distressed because he was too busy at work to take his ride that day, Arnold continued. However, one of his appointments canceled and he was able to ride his bike for an hour — the same time as the attack.

Barriers were credited with preventing more fatalities and injuries when a car plowed into pedestrians in Times Square in May.

The New York State Department of Transportation recommends bollards for paths shared by cyclists and pedestrians

“Unauthorized motor vehicles are banned from bicycle or shared-use paths,” the state’s design guide says. “Barriers should be provided.”

However, the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials calls them “ineffective” and says they may hinder access by emergency vehicles and cause serious injuries to cyclists who strike them.

Ridgewood father speaks on son’s brutal beating on school sports field

POSTED 7:12 PM, NOVEMBER 17, 2017, BY CHRISTIE DUFFY

Exclusive: Ridgewood father speaks on son’s brutal beating on school sports field

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Two New Jersey families have now filed suit against the Ridgewood School District, including students, and the social-media platform Snapchat after a teenage boy was video-taped being brutally beaten on school property.

The violent assault, which left the teen with a shattered skull, occurred on October 27 and again on October 28 on a school sports field.

“For the first week after I saw the video, I couldn’t sleep. The image is just so horrifying,” the father of the student beaten told PIX11 exclusively. He did not want himself or his son to be publicly identified and he did not want video of his son’s beating broadcast. “He’s got several titanium plates and screws to hold his skull and his face together.”

He said his son’s face is still numb and swollen from the assault. He’s had reconstructive surgery and he may need a second operation if the wounds don’t heal accordingly.

“In the media I’ve heard this called a fight,” said the family’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold. “This was not a fight, this was an ambush and a beat down.”

According to the lawsuit and the teen’s father, a bully had been spreading rumors and circulating seductive photos of a female classmate at the high school. The teen beaten allegedly approached this student inside the school library and asked him to stop. In return, the alleged bully ordered a friend on the wrestling team to pummel the teen.

“This poor child was the only one who came forward and said you really need to stop this,” said Arnold. “And because he came forward, like he was taught, he got a beat down.”

The teenage girl and the teen beaten are the two alleged victims who are suing.

PIX11 contacted the Ridgewood Schools Superintendent for comment today. He referred us to earlier public statements published on the district’s website.

One reads: “[We] will use this recent incident to address ‘witness’ behavior as a school community. It is highly unfortunate that the incident – which happened after school hours on district property – resulted in unnecessary and unacceptable violence.”

New Jersey passed an anti-bullying bill of rights in 2010 in an effort to combat bullying in public schools.

“There is this whole thing now in high schools now, how they want you to try and intervene,” said Arnold. “They have interviews and they have training materials, but what they don’t do is they don’t teach you how to safely intervene,” said Arnold.

“Frankly, I’m disgusted,” said the boy’s father of the school’s response to the incident.

Teen whose beating was recorded by classmates suing high school

By Paul Milo, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com; Updated Nov 17, 2017; Posted Nov 16, 2017

http://www.nj.com/bergen/index.ssf/2017/11/teen_whose_beating_was_recorded_by_classmates_suin.html

RIDGEWOOD– A boy who was beaten on public school property and a girl who was cyber-bullied are suing the school district, claiming they were victims of a cruel game involving social media that had been ignored by the district for years, their attorney said Thursday.

“Two years ago Ridgewood High School had this exact same problem where students were disseminating photos” and school officials failed to address the situation, said Rosemarie Arnold, of Fort Lee.

Police and school officials launched an investigation early this month after they learned of a male student who was allegedly beaten by classmates on school property outside school hours. The first incident occurred on Stevens Field, followed by a second incident on Brookside Field, according to Facebook posts and a news release sent out by Ridgewood police. The first fight happened around Oct. 23, according to a notice of claim filed by Arnold Thursday.

The youth was hospitalized after suffering serious injuries, including facial fractures and eye damage, Arnold said.

Students recorded the second fight and jeered the boy as it was occurring, Superintendent of Schools Daniel Fishbein said.

Arnold and family members say the boy was attempting to defend his girlfriend after pictures of her were circulated on social media. The girl was clothed in the pictures, which showed her from the waist up and had been sent to a prior boyfriend, Arnold said.

She also said that for at least two years students at the school have participated in a game the object of which is to collect nude photos of other students, which are then shared on social media.

“The board and the administration knew about this game but did nothing…The kids get a sense of ‘I have to handle this myself,'” Arnold said of the boy’s attempt to defend the girl.

The suit names Ridgewood High School and the Board of Education as defendants. The social media site Snapchat is also a defendant for allegedly failing to uphold its own policies governing certain kinds of photos.

A spokeswoman for the district could not immediately be reached Thursday night.

Harlem charter school choir teacher, 29, is jailed for sexually assaulting two boys aged 10 and 12 in sick fondling ‘game’ he made them play

  • Darnelle Watts was found guilty in January of predatory sexual assault against a child, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child
  • Until October 2015, Watts had worked as a choir teacher and aide at Promise Academy II in Harlem, New York
  • Prosecutors said Watts had repeatedly sexually assaulted two boys, ages 10 and 12, between the fall 2014 and summer 2015
  • Watts told detectives he touched the penis of one of the boys ‘by accident’ while the two were at a movie theater
  • On another occasion he fondled one of the boys in the school auditorium

By Snejana Farberov For Dailymail.com

PUBLISHED: 14:15 EDT, 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:48 EDT, 15 February 2017

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4228386/Harlem-teacher-gets-20-years-sexually-assaulting-boys.html

A former choir teacher at a Harlem charter school has been sentenced to 20 years to life in a state prison for sexually assaulting two young boys in his class.

Last month, 29-year-old Darnelle Watts was found guilty of one count of predatory sexual assault against a child and four counts of first-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a press release announcing Watts’ sentencing on Wednesday that it took a jury just two hours to convict the teacher.

Watts worked as choir teacher and after-school aide at Promise Academy II, a charter elementary school in the Harlem section of Manhattan.

Prosecutors said during Watts’ trial in January that between September 2014 and May 2015, the 29-year-old repeatedly fondled a 10-year-old boy who was a student in his class. The attacks took place both on and off campus.

Watts was also convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old student between March 2015 and June 2015.

According to court documents filed in the case and cited by the New York Daily News last year, when he was interviewed by police about the allegations, Watts claimed that he touched the penis of one of the boys ‘by accident’ while the two were at a movie theater.

The 29-year-old told detectives that he and the child were playing a ‘game’ where they would hit one another’s genitalia.

‘I did ask (Doe) to pull his penis and I pulled out my penis. I touched (Doe’s) penis and (Doe) touched my penis. But I didn’t let him finish me off,’ he said when questioned over the molestation.

Watts, who at one time had been part of the famed Boys’ Choir of Harlem, later described another encounter with the boy in the elementary school auditorium, which involved the teacher and the student exposing their genitals and touching one another.

He further confessed to letting the grade-schooler look at pornographic material on his phone, including a photo of Watts’ penis, which he said he had snapped to send to someone.

‘I’m not circumcised. I like girls,’ he told detectives.

Watts was fired from his job at the renowned charter school in October 2015 after the sexual abuse allegations against him first came to light.

The families of the two victims last year filed a civil lawsuit against him, Promise Academy II and the city, accusing officials of failing to remove the predatory teacher from the classroom sooner.

Attorney Rosemarie Arnold, who is representing the victims in the lawsuit, told the DailyMail.com in a brief phone interview on Wednesday that she finds the idea of Watts getting out of prison at some point in the future to be ‘unthinkable’ after what he had done to her clients.

District Attorney Vance said in Wednesday’s statement that there is cause for concern that there may be additional victims out there, given that Watts had been in constant contact with children.

According to the lawsuit, obtained by Daily Mail, one of the victims, whose initials are N.T., is a learning-disabled student who had attended the school from 2008 to 2015.

The other plaintiff, who goes by initials M.H., was a fifth-grader who had been enrolled at Promise Academy II from September 2014 to July 2015.

The complaint accuses Watts of touching and groping the boys, ‘wrestling’ with them ‘so he could feel their bodies underneath their clothes,’ exposing his penis to NT and forcing the child to watch ‘sexually explicit pornographic videos on his cell phone.’

The lawsuit alleges battery, assault, negligent, intentional and reckless emotional distress, along with negligent hiring, supervision and retention.

Local Businessman Abused, Raped Teenage Niece For 3 Years, Court Docs Allege

Orient businessman and farm owner Steven Mezynieski allegedly tied up his niece with rope during the abuse, civil court docs say.

By Lisa Finn (Patch Staff) – February 3, 2017 4:37 pm ET

https://patch.com/new-york/northfork/local-businessman-allegedly-abused-raped-niece-3-years-15-court-docs-allege

A Long Island farm owner and businessman has been accused of raping and abusing his niece for a period of three years, and, in one incident, tied her up with rope without her consent in a greenhouse on his property during the alleged sexual abuse, court documents filed this week say.

According to a civil suit filed with the Suffolk County Supreme Court on Thursday, Steven Mezynieski, 44, who was charged with first-degree rape last August, began abusing his niece when she was 15, when she spent time at his Orient home due to the fact that her brother had just been diagnosed with cancer.

The complaint states that the abuse took place between 2012 and 2014 and details incidents when Mezynieski allegedly “took her on unsolicited shopping sprees and trips to Florida” and gave “her significant amounts of money” to single her out for special treatment. On those shopping trips he allegedly bought her lingerie, the documents state.

Mezynieski repeatedly performed oral sex on the teen without her consent, abused and raped her, the complaint states.

During one alleged incident, the complaint details, “As the rape continued, Plaintiff started screaming ‘no’ and in response, Defendant Steven M. Mezynieski choked” the teen.

The complaint also states that Mezynieksi allegedly forced the teen to drink alcohol and threatened ” . . .it would hurt her entire family if the truth came out, especially her mother who was worried about the cancer diagnosis of her brother and her.”

The young woman was diagnosed with a rare cancer herself in 2014, the complaint states.

Mezynieski’s attorney Eddie Burke Jr. responded: “These are bizarre and completely unfounded allegations intended to support false claims for money damages and smear my client’s good name. We will defend this lawsuit vigorously and not be subjected to a financial shakedown.”

Attorney Rosemarie Arnold, who has offices in Fort Lee, N.J., and midtown Manhattan, is representing the young woman, known in court papers as “J.G.,” now 20.

The amount of damages sought was not indicated in the court documents.

“It’s a sorry state when a human being is trusted with caring for his niece because her brother has cancer and instead of caring for her, he abuses her. What’s worse is this man has his own kids. He’s a child predator. He should be locked up behind bars,” Arnold said.

She added that the criminal case against Mezynieski is still pending.

“It’s very scary that a man who would commit these heinous acts is just walking around the upscale community of the Hamptons doing business with people who have no idea that he’s a predator,” the lawyer said. “He’s a sick and disgusting human being.”

In August, New York State Police in Farmingdale announced the arrest of Mezynieski. He was charged with first-degree rape, a felony, and first-degree criminal sex act, a felony, police said.

The charges are related to Mezynieski allegedly engaging in sexual relations with a female victim over the course of about three years, which started when the victim was under the age of consent, police said.

The investigation was conducted by members of the State Police Troop L Major Crimes Unit.

Mezynieski was arraigned before Judge Brian Hughes in Southold Town Justice Court and released on $25,000 bail, police said. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Later, the attorney representing Mezynieski said the charges filed against his client — charges of first-degree rape and first-degree criminal sex act, felonies — were not accurate.

Sag Harbor-based attorney Burke Jr. said the charges need to be clarified by New York State Police, who filed them under an incorrect subsection of the New York State penal code, he said.

According to Burke, the charges are “inapplicable to an underage situation.”

Instead, Burke said Mezynieski’s charges, under the statute of “forcible compulsion,” meaning “against the alleged victim’s consent,” had “nothing to do with age.”

Burke said Mezynieski was charged with Section 130.50 of the New York State penal code, first-degree criminal sex act, and said that his client was facing a charge of “forcible compulsion. It has nothing to do with underage.”

Burke said the same was true of the charge of first-degree rape, Section 130.35 of the penal code, with “refers to rape by forcible compulsion.”

Mezynieski is the owner of Driftwood Farms in Orient. He also owns Steven Mezynieski Inc., an excavation services company in Southampton. He was before the Riverhead Town Board in 2013 over plans for a farm on Sound Avenue in Calverton.

In August, Burke said he entered “strenuous not guilty pleas” on his client’s behalf.

“I look forward to addressing this matter in the appropriate court and clearing my client’s name,” Burke said.

Long Island businessman repeatedly raped niece for three years, lawsuit alleges

BY REUVEN BLAU
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, February 2, 2017, 10:57 PM

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/businessman-repeatedly-raped-niece-3-years-lawsuit-article-1.2963067

A teen girl says in a lawsuit that her uncle, who owns a Southampton, L.I., excavation firm, repeatedly raped her over three years.

Steven Mezynieski, 44, first sexually assaulted the girl when she was 15, according to the civil suit filed in Suffolk County Supreme court Thursday.

The girl, identified by her initials J.G. in court papers, says the abuse began when she went on vacation to Punta Gorda, Fla., with Mezynieski.

Later, he used rope to restrain her in order perform oral sex on her without consent at his business, Driftwood Farms, the court papers say. The alleged abuse lasted from 2012 to 2014. “This man is a sick human being,” the girl’s lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, said.

Mezynieski was arrested and charged with sexual assault last August. He has entered a not guilty plea and maintains his innocence. If convicted of the most serious offense, he faces 25 years in prison. “My client adamantly denies the charges leveled against him,” his lawyer, Edward Burke, previously told reporters.

After Hurricane Sandy, Mezynieski’s excavation company was hired to rebuild the sand dunes guarding high-end homes by the ocean.

LI dog-attack horror (New York Post)

LI dog-attack horror
My son’s ear chewed off: dad

By LAUREL BABCOCK and DAN MANGAN
Last Updated: 3:59 AM, June 5, 2012
Posted: 1:26 AM, June 5, 2012

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/li_dog_attack_horror_BqaI6mJvaQROCJCq24glWO

A Manhattan pediatrician whose 80-pound dog, Archie, is notorious for being “vicious and dangerous” took the pooch to a Long Island elementary school playground — despite signs banning dogs — where it promptly attacked a 6-year-old boy and chewed off his earlobe, a scathing lawsuit charged yesterday.

Then, instead of giving bleeding, screaming Andrew Esposito medical assistance, Dr. Deborah Levine said, “Everything’s going to be fine, It’s no big deal,” recalled Andrew’s dad, Edward Esposito.

Levine had brought the hulking black Labrador mix, Archie, on a leash on May 18 to Philip Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington, LI, where Andrew’s brother was playing a baseball game, Esposito said.

Levine, who is a professor of emergency pediatric medicine at NYU School of Medicine, owns the dog with her urologist husband, Dr. Michael Levine.

Suddenly, “I heard a noise, like something you hear in a bear attack — just a horrible noise,” Esposito recalled.

Esposito, 39, turned to see 45-pound Andrew lying face-down and crying in the dirt — with half of his right ear lying nearby.

Deborah Levine, still holding Archie’s leash, said, “He’ll be fine” — but Andrew wasn’t fine, even after being rushed to St. Francis Hospital and undergoing two hours of surgery, his dad recalled.

“They couldn’t reattach the half that was taken off,” Esposito said. He said his son now faces “many” plastic-surgery procedures.

The still-shaken Andrew since has been kept home from kindergarten — and “thinks his ear is growing back,” his dad said.

Esposito yesterday sued his now-ex-friends in Nassau Supreme Court, claiming the Levines’ recklessness led to Andrew’s permanent injuries.

“This child is going to be significantly disfigured for the rest of his life,” said Esposito’s lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold.

Arnold also said Archie “is known around the neighborhood as having vicious propensities.”

Deborah Levine refused to comment from her Port Washington home.

Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley

Atty: Port Washington Family Files Lawsuit After 6-Year-Old Attacked By Dog In Schoolyard (CBS)

Atty: Port Washington Family Files Lawsuit After 6-Year-Old Attacked By Dog In Schoolyard
Doctors Unable To Reattach Boy’s Ear; Espositos Suing For $30 Million
June 4, 2012 8:11 PM

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/06/04/atty-port-washington-family-suing-after-6-year-old-attacked-by-dog-in-schoolyard/

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The parents of a 6-year-old Long Island boy who said their son was attacked by a dog on a school playground is suing the dog’s owners for $30 million.

Andrew Esposito was playing in the schoolyard at Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington when a lab mix allegedly got away from its owners as it was being walked through the playground.
The 6-year-old’s father, Ed Esposito, said his son had gone up to pet the dog when he was attacked.

“I turn over and I see my son face down in the dirt,” he told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “My wife runs over to him and starts screaming ‘his ear, his ear! Look for his ear!’”

There are signs prohibiting dogs from entering school grounds, according to the Esposito’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, who added the dog is known to be “aggressive” and “vicious.”

“There are children on the block that are afraid to walk to the bus stop because this dog growls and shows teeth,” Arnold said.

The Espositos put their son’s earlobe on ice and took it to the hospital, but doctors were not able to reattach it. Arnold called the boy’s injuries “catastrophic.”

“This is an adorable, 6-year-old boy who had his earlobe chewed off,” she said.

“He’s been telling everybody that his ear’s growing back, so he thinks that his ear’s growing back. He doesn’t understand what is going on,” Ed Esposito told CBS 2’s Don Dahler.

The lawsuit claims the dog’s owners, Michael and Deborah Levine, were careless and reckless.

The Levines live in Port Washington, but a person who answered the door Monday told CBS 2’s Dahler the couple had no comment, and neither did the Levines return calls asking for their side of the story.

Meanwhile, Andrew Esposito’s father said the boy’s brothers and friends are trying to lift his spirits.

“They’ve rallied around with other kids in the community to make him feel normal,” Ed Esposito said.

Animal Control officers told the Espositos they could do nothing about the dog after the alleged attack, because this was the first time it was accused of biting someone, CBS 2’s Dahler reported.