Legal Services of the Hudson Valley opening office in Rockland

Coming to a civil courtroom in Rockland is Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.

The non-profit legal organization is opening its second-floors doors on Wednesday evening with a reception at 7a Perlman Drive in Spring Valley, between the Spring Valley Marketplace and Pascack Road.

The office marks the eighth one set up by Legal Services, whose history dates 40-plus years. It has offices in Orange and Westchester counties, as well.

From the organization’s news release:

“Since 1967, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley has provided support, advocacy and civil legal representation to poor and low-income families and individuals in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Rockland Counties,” said Barbara Finkelstein, the agency’s chief executive officer.

“In our 45+ year history, we have been able to provide free non-criminal legal assistance to nearly 300,000 clients,” she says. “Because of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, both New York State and local county governments have saved millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to combat homelessness, abuse, hunger and other societal harms which can result from an absence of affordable justice.”

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley works closely with community organizations, elected officials and other agencies to let the residents of the lower Hudson Valley know they are not alone and will have access to legal representation and support guaranteed by law, she said.

Legal Services is expecting dignitaries at its opening – scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Those invited included the county’s state delegation and Congress members, as well as local lawyers.

The organization will join services like Legal Aid, which also provides representation for the low income people in civil cases, Family Court and on housing issues. Rockland residents strapped for cash and facing criminal charges can get legal representation from the Public Defender’s Office and special 18b panel of private attorneys.

UPDATE: Rockland officials making plans for sex trafficking, domestic violence, Super Bowl

Gearing up for the Super Bowl in February, Rockland law enforcement officials and advocates for women will put human sex trafficking first and 10 on their game plan.

During a news conference at 2:30 p.m. (today) Monday, they (will) outlined their plans prior to the National Football League’s showcase game at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands – the home of the Jets and the Giants.2013 STOP FEAR Press Conference 020

A main issue for law enforcement is that major sporting events like the Super Bowl have attracted the sex trade industries. The majority of domestic minor sex trafficking victims are 12 to 15-year-olds who are runaways or who have been abducted and are often forced into compliance with violence, threats and drugs, they said.

In effort to prepare law enforcement and educate the public, Rockland advocates will host a special training session on Oct. 30 for first-responders, hotel and motel staff and the general public called, “Human Trafficking and the Super Bowl: What We Need to Know in Rockland.”

The session will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Good Samaritan Hospital by the Polaris Project, which is involved with combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

The STOP F.E.A.R. Coalition, established on 1986 to respond to domestic violence, already has laid the groundwork for the training on human sex trafficking during a meeting on Sept. 25.

“As a county we have done an excellent job creating a coordinated response to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Kiera Pollock, deputy executive director of programs and services at Center for Safety & Change, and co-chair of the Human Trafficking Sub-Committee of the STOP F.E.A.R. Coalition.

“Now we must put our efforts into addressing the multitude of needs that survivors—both minors and adults—of human trafficking may need in Rockland especially in light of the upcoming Super Bowl,” she said.

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe and Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan said law enforcement is gearing up to ensure children are not exploited and take an aggressive approach in Rockland, where local hotels and motels expect to get business from people attending the marquee event in New Jersey.

The 16th Annual STOP F.E.A.R. conference on Nov. 1 will focus on human trafficking and the Super Bowl.

Continuing the theme of Human Trafficking and the Super Bowl, the training, “Preparing for National Security Events: A Perspective on Human Trafficking for Investigators and Front Line Officers,” is geared towards criminal justice professionals. The featured speakers will be Chris Bray from the Phoenix Police Department, an expert on child trafficking, and Eric Pauley from the FBI”s “Innocence Lost Project”, an expert on investigating all matters involving sexual exploitation of children as keynote speakers.

The news conference today at the county office building on New Hempstead Road in New City will include District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, and officials of the Rockland Center for Safety & Change, the former Rockland Family Shelter.

The advocates also will promote October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – which has been celebrated nationwide for 32 years.

Additional Domestic Violence Awareness Month Events include:

– Oct. 24: Walk with me, a silent student-led procession at 12 p.m. at Rockland Community College, room 3214

– Nov. 10: 34th Annual Harvest Auction, 5:00 p.m. New York Country Club, New Hempstead; $90 per person, Silent Auction with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres; life auction with dinner and dessert, RSVP for the Auction or to complete a journal ad visit

The Center for Safety & Change is a non-profit. grass-roots organization serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and all crime victims. The center is located at 9 Johnsons Lane, New City. The 24-hour hotline number is 845-634-3344.

PHOTO: Carolyn Fish, the longtime leader of Rockland Center for Safety & Change, formerly Rockland Family Shelter, accepts proclamation from Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef

State Legislature proposes harsher penalties for killing police dogs, horses

Legislation dictating harsher penalties for those who kill or injury police dogs and horse while they are on duty was adopted Tuesday by the state Assembly and Senate.

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, was a main sponsor of the proposal in the Assembly.

State and local law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on these animals in crime solving, rescue and recovery operations. Under current law, killing a police animal is a misdemeanor.

The legislation passed by both houses on Tuesday would make harming the animals a felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison, the highest penalty for killing an animal in the state.

“The role of police animals has significantly expanded over the past few years leading to increased use in investigations and apprehensions,” Zebrowski said in a statement “These animals provide protection, assistance and improve public safety.”

“State and local police invest a great deal of time and resources in the training of these extraordinary animals,” he said. “These animals are viewed and respected as ordinary police officers and we should begin to reflect that by increasing the penalty for killing them.”

The rest of the Zebrowski press release says:

Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-C, Newfane, also sponsored the proposed law that helps recognize the important roles these animals have in crime solving, rescue and recovery operations and other duties by creating a felony-level offense.

“Police animals do a remarkable job protecting and serving the citizens of this state,” Maziarz said in a statement released by Zebrowski’s office.

“In 2011, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office lost their K-9, Rocky, when he fell off a roof tracking clues regarding a robbery,” Maziarz said. The use of police animals is increasing and they continually undertake tasks that our own police officers do. It is time that we provide these animals the protection they deserve under the law when they are injured or die in the line of duty.”

In addition to the loss of Rocky, another high-profile death of a police animal came in March 2013 when Ape, a newly-trained FBI dog, was fatally shot as police searched for Kurt Myers – a suspect in the deaths of four people in Herkimer.

“The role of police animals has significantly expanded over the past few years leading to increased use in investigations and apprehensions,” Zebrowski said. “These animals provide protection, assistance and improve public safety. State and local police invest a great deal of time and resources in the training of these extraordinary animals. These animals are viewed and respected as ordinary police officers and we should begin to reflect that by increasing the penalty for killing them.”

Photo: Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski

Haverstraw Elks hosting Rockland cop recognition night on March 21

Rockland police officers will be honored on March 21 during the Haverstraw Elks Lodge 877’s 41st Annual Law Enforcement Recognition Night.

The event starts with cocktails at 7 p.m., followed by a prime rib dinner and ceremony. The honors include outstanding investigative award, unit appreciation award, and civilian award.

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe is the scheduled speaker.

For more information and a list of contacts, for $35 tickets, go to or call Spring Valley Officeer Phil Fantasia at 845-356-7400 or Sheriff’s Office Detective Hank Bender at 845-638-5446. cq

Stony Point man charged with DWI, injuring a driver held on $100G bail

Michael Coyle, 45, of Stony Point man was ordered held on $100,000 on charges of seriously injuring another driver while driving drunk. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday in Haverstraw Justice Court.

Coyle was released from Nyack Hospital on Monday for arraignment on a felony charge of driving drunk and causing a head-on crash with another vehicle in which the daughter of the former Stony Point supervisor suffered serious injuries. He had been held police custody at Nyack Hospital following the crash on Route 9W at 5 p.m. Friday. He had been in serious but stable condition following the crash, police said.

Alysoun Sherwood, 48, a former Stony Point resident now living in Highland Falls, underwent seven hours of surgery at Westchester Medical Center. She remained hospitalized on Monday.

Hospital spokesman David Billig didn’t return telephone call for comment.

Read more at lohud.

Yeshiva rabbi in Spring Valley charged with assaulting student, 10

Rabbi Meilech Spitzer, the principal of a major religious school in Spring Valley, has been charged with assault, accused of slapping a 10-year-old student in the face several times.

Spitzer is charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and accused of intending to physically harm the child. Spitzer slapped the victim “numerous times on the left side of his face and left ear,” according to the complaint.

A message left for Spitzer at his Brooklyn home has not been returned on Monday. Spring Valley police declined to return telephone calls for comment.

Read more at lohud.

Rockland Sheriff’s Office offers free gun locks

The Rockland Sheriff’s Office will offer free firearm locks for county residents who possess firearms.

Starting Friday, the Sheriff’s Police Division will begin to disseminate firearms cable locks.

• These cable locks will be provided to Rockland residents free-of-charge, on a first come, first received basis.
• In an effort to provide these devices to the maximum number of residents, a limit of four cable locks per household has been established.
• Persons seeking to receive the locks will be asked to complete a voluntary basic information form. If a person chooses not to complete the form, they must display visual proof of residency to the issuing officer.
• If requested and if time permits, the issuing officer will explain how to install the cable lock on a firearm.
The Rockland County Clerk’s Office also has been provided with a quantity of these cable lock devices. They will be participating in this distribution program as pistol permit amendment applications are processed.

Clarkstown cop Bill Sherwood resigns under OT cloud

A veteran Clarkstown police officer has resigned rather than challenge potential departmental accusations that he filed for several hours of overtime and didn’t work the hours, authorities confirmed.

William “Bill” Sherwood, a decorated officer for more than a decade, filed for routine overtime of four hours allowed for a scheduled appearance before a Rockland grand jury, authorities said.

“We came across a discrepancy in his overtime,” Police Chief Michael Sullivan said. “We did an investigation and some overtime he submitted he didn’t work.”