Wrong-way drunken driver pleads guilty

A 24-year-old Connecticut man has admitted to his role in a wrong-way drunken driving crash that seriously hurt three young women on Interstate 684 in April.

Ricardo Martinez-Arenas of Stamford, Conn. pleaded guilty today to aggravated vehicular assault, a felony, and aggravated driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, Westchester County District Attorney’s office.

He agreed to serve 3 to 9 years in state prison as part of his plea. He will be sentenced on October 19th.

Prosecutors said Martinez-Arenas was driving south in the northbound lanes of I-684 in the early morning hours of April 24, 2010, when he crashed head-on with another car in Lewisboro.

The impact caused his car to burst into flames. The three women, who were 18 to 21 years old, were badly hurt. The driver remains in a wheelchair, according to the District Attorney’s office.

State police said Martinez-Arenas had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

White Plains dentist charged with fraud taken to jail

A White Plains dentist accused of defrauding her insurance company was taken to jail today, after a judge determined she purposely missed mandatory meetings connected to her criminal case.

Dr. Joanne Baker, (left) who had been free on $10,000 bail, will remain in the Westchester County jail in Valhalla until Oct. 19, when a judge plans to sentence her on charges of third-degree grand larceny and insurance fraud.

Baker, 51, had pleaded guilty to those charges, both felonies, on May 19. She was supposed to be sentenced today. She is now attempting to withdraw her guilty plea, in which she agreed to serve five years probation with 24 weekends in jail and pay nearly $60,000.

Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli said Baker, a Scarsdale resident, made no effort to meet with the Westchester County Department of Probation for a pre-sentencing report, which is mandatory for all defendants who plead guilty or are convicted at trial.

Baker’s new attorney, Peter Tilem, said his client spent two weeks in June at Four Winds, a psychiatric treatment hospital in Katonah, and is currently under a doctor’s care and on medication. Despite her condition, Tilem said, “she is taking this very seriously.”

Assistant District Attorney Brian Fitzgerald said probation officers tried to reach Baker from June 22 to Aug. 16, after she was released from Four Winds, but that she ignored their calls while making efforts to regain her state dental license. He accused Baker of trying to thwart the justice system.

Prosecutors accused Baker of running a two-year scam in which she sent phony bills to MetLife and created phony patient medical records and sent copies to the insurance firm, starting in September 2006. Eighteen patients came forward in 2008 to say Baker had billed MetLife for dental work she never provided, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, MetLife and the District Attorney’s Office investigated the claims, and Baker was arrested Sept. 23, 2008. After her arrest, prosecutors said, investigators found four patients who said Baker sent their insurance company, MetLife, phony bills between December 2008 and February 2009. She was accused of misleading MetLife and trying to prevent patients from reporting her. She was rearrested in April 2009.

Baker, whose office is at 1 Bryant Crescent, agreed to pay $8,900 in restitution to Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and forfeit $50,000 worth of assets in what is known as a stipulation of settlement, according to the county District Attorney’s Office.

Feds drop Quinoy case

Federal prosecutors have decided against a retrial for Jose Quinoy, the Sleepy Hollow police detective who was cleared last month by a jury on two of three charges against him.

Quinoy, 37, was accused of violating the rights of two men in two incidents in late 2006. He was also accused of tampering with a witness in the case, fellow Sleepy Hollow Officer Michael Hayes, who wore a wire for the feds.

Quinoy was cleared of violating the rights of Luis Vilches in December 2006. In that incident, prosecutors said Quinoy illegally used a stun gun on Vilches after he was handcuffed. Vilches had shown up with a tree saw at police headquarters earlier that day threatening to cut Quinoy up over alleged comments Quinoy made about his daughter months earlier. Quinoy was also cleared of tampering with Hayes. Federal prosecutors said he tried to influence Hayes’ grand jury testimony.

The jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal on another civil rights charge. In that incident, Quinoy was accused of punching and kicking gomez after he was already handcuffed following a vicious street brawl outside police headquarters on Oct. 17, 2006. The fight stemmed from Gomez’s belief that Quinoy was dating his 22-year-old daughter. The married Quinoy and Gomez’s daughter Haydee both denied there was a romantic relationship.

The case took a bizarre twist on the eve of trial in June when it was discovered that evidence in the case was missing. A disc with recordings made by Hayes turned up blank. After pre-trial hearings, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas said the lead FBI agent in the case, Catherine Pena, had destroyed the disc and then lied about it on the stand.

Schizophrenic found competent to stand trial in fatal hit-and-run

Although Sheldene Campbell has schizophrenia and hears voices telling her she will win her criminal case, two psychologists testified today that she is competent to stand trial in a hit-and-run rampage two years ago in White Plains.

Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli agreed that Campbell (above) was stable enough to face felony murder and assault charges in the back-to-back collisions that killed 65-year-old Marie Bucci and injured 46-year-old Roseanne Schiavone.

Campbell, 38, is accused of intentionally striking and killing Bucci as she walked through her Haviland Lane neighborhood on Oct. 19, 2008. The deadly encounter came moments after Campbell allegedly hit Schiavone as she walked her dog on the same road.

At today’s hearing, Campbell’s lawyer, Alan Brenner, questioned his client’s ability to aid in her own defense. Not only does Campbell hear voices from God telling her she’ll be acquitted, he said, but also noted that the stress of a trial could worsen her mental condition, despite the medication she takes.

Psychologists Ann Fenichel and Thomas Kucharski, who examined Campbell in May, said they interviewed her again a few days ago and concluded for a second time that she understands her legal options and would listen her attorney regarding how to proceed with the case.

“The voices are not interfering with her ability to make rational decisions,” Kucharski said.

Read more about this story tomorrow in The Journal News and on LoHud.com.

Yonkers man convicted of assault for pouring hot oil on homeless man

A Yonkers resident accused of badly burning a homeless man by throwing hot oil on him from a second-floor window last August was convicted today — his 29th birthday — of  assault.

Kyron Bowden was found guilty of first-degree assault and third-degree weapon possession, both felonies, by Westchester County Judge James Hubert after a two-day bench trial in county court in White Plains.

According to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office, Bowden demanded that the 55-year-old victimleave the alleyway of his Chestnut Street apartment early on Aug. 21, 2009. When the man stayed, Bowden  heated up a metal pot filled with cooking oil, went to a stairwell window and poured the oil on him.

Police said they found the victim running and screaming “in excruciating pain” on Oak Street, about a block away.

The victim was burned over 35 percent of his body and had first- second- and third- degree burns over his upper body,  prosecutors said. He spent a month in the hospital and had two skin grafts.

A witness told police that Bowden had an argument with the victim and tossed the hot oil onto him, police said. The officers then found Bowden and took him into custody.

Bowden. who has been held on $5,000 bail since his arrest, will be sentenced Oct. 21. He faces up to 25 years in state prison.

20 years for Dobbs Ferry carjacker

A New York City man who carjacked an elderly man in Dobbs Ferry on New Years’ Day will serve 20 years in state prison for the crime.

The carjacker, 29-year-old Fatmir Dajbabic, (left) was on parole for a 2002 robbery conviction when he committed the carjacking and other robberies in December 2009,  according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.

He is already is serving a 12- to 15-year sentence for robbery in New York City. The new sentence, handed down last week by Westchester County Judge Susan Cacace, will effectively add five years onto his prison term.

Dajbabic, 29, had pleaded guilty to  first-degree robbery for the Jan. 1 carjacking near a Getty service station at 420 Broadway.

According to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office, Dajbabic got into a car driven by a 73-year-old man, held a gun to the man’s right temple, ordered him to stop on Transvall Avenue and get into the back seat.

The man stopped the car but escaped. Dajbabic chased him down and put his hand over the man’s mouth to stop him from yelling. When the victim fell, Dajbabic hit hit him on the back of the head, ran back to the car and drove off.

The victim called police from a nearby house.

Before stealing the man’s car, prosecutors said, Dajbabic had approached a 26-year-old pregnant woman at the gas station and asked for directions. When he showed her a gun tucked in his waistband, the woman began yelling that she could not help him. Dajbabic walked away and the woman immediately called police.

Dajbabic was arrested in Brooklyn later that day in connection with several unrelated robberies. According to the Westchester District Attorney’s office, Dajbabic admitted to New York City police detectives that he carjacked a man in Dobbs Ferry that day.

Dajbabic has a pending armed robbery case and is facing other felony charges in the Bronx.

Yonkers lawyer charged with stealing $82G from client

A real estate lawyer is accused of stealing $82,700 from a client who was selling an apartment in Yonkers.

Bruce Mogavero, a 54-year-old Eastchester resident, was arraigned in Westchester Conty Court today on a felony charge of second-degree grand larceny, according to the county District Attorney’s office. He is free without bail.

Prosecutors allege that Mogavero, whose office is on Xavier Drive in Yonkers, stole the money between March 1 and July 1 while representing a man selling his apartment at 485 Bronx River Road. The money was to remain in an escrow account.

Police are investigating Mogavero to see if he stole money from other clients.

Mogavero faces up to 15 years in state prison if convicted. He is due back in court Sept. 28.

Peekskill men arraigned in brutal beating of immigrant

Four Peekskill men pleaded not guilty  today to viciously beating of Ecuadorian immigrant in the foyer of his apartment building four months ago.

Jarron Sligh and Ronnie Juett, both 23, Jamar Walker (far left), 20, and Keith Walker, (left) who turns 19 tomorrow, were arragined in in Westchester County Court on an indictment charging them with first-degree gang assault, a felony punishable by 25 years in state prison.

The victim, Julio Serrano, a laborer, was hospitalized for a month after the May 15 attack, prosecutors said. He suffered a broken jaw, cheek, eye socket and ribs; a fractured jaw and a ruptured spleen that had to be removed. He also has brain damage and a limited memory of the attack.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Holdman set bail at $250,000 for Sligh and Juett. Attorneys for Jamal and Keith Walker, who are being held without bail, reserved the right to have a bail hearing at a later date.
Prosecutors said the four suspects were “hanging out” with several other men on the corner of Nelson Avenue and John Street at 1:30 a.m. when Sligh (pictured left) began harassing Serrano across the street. Sligh blocked Serrano’s path with a bicycle, then hit him in the face. Serrano walked home to 205 Nelson Ave. and sat on the steps, holding his face, while Sligh returned to the corner and bragged about the attack.

A few minutes later, the defendants claim, Serrano threw a glass bottle at them. They ran after Serrano, who tried to run inside the building but was trapped in the vestibule. The four suspects surrounded him and kicked, punched and stomped on him, according to prosecutors.

The four men returned to the corner and bragged and laughed about the beating to their friends, prosecutors allege. One of Serrano’s neighbors found him and called for help.

According to court papers, video surveillance shows the four suspects entering the vestibule. Prosecutors said witnesses testimony points to the four men as Serrano’s attackers.

The four suspects were not charged with a hate crime, which requires corroborating evidence that a victim was targeted specifically because of his race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

They are due back in court for a conference before Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli on Aug. 31.

Juett, (left) has a criminal record that includes a felony conviction of first-degree sexual abuse involving a girl less than 11 years old, a drug conviction and a conspiracy conviction, in which he served jail time.

Sligh, a father of two young children, previously served nine months in jail on a drug conviction and currently has four open cases in Peekskill on misdemeanor charges of trespassing, criminal mischief and possession of stolen property.

Defense completes psych tests for Pagli

The defense team has given prosecutors medical records and psychological reports for Stacey Pagli, who appeared in Westchester County Court this morning on a charge of killing her teenage daughter six months ago at Manhattanville College.

Her estranged husband, John Pagli, was also in court. After exchanging a brief glance with his handcuffed wife, he fought back tears during her brief court appearance and dashed out of the courtroom as soon as she was returned to the courthouse’s holding cell.

Stacey Pagli is facing a second-degree murder charge in the slaying of Marissa Pagli in the family’s on-campus apartment in Purchase. Her attorney, Allan Focarile of the Westchester Legal Aid Society, said he plans to use a psychiatric defense.

Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward said Dr. Angela Hegarty, a psychological expert who has testified for prosecutors in other murder cases, would review the records and reports before interviewing Stacey Pagli herself.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Albert Lorenzo ordered both sides to return to court Sept. 15.

If a jury believes that Pagli, 38, suffered an emotional disturbance due to severe depression or some other cause when she killed her daughter, she could be convicted of manslaughter and serve less time in prison.

After initially refusing, John Pagli met with two psychiatric experts about his wife’s mental state before Marissa was choked to death Feb. 22.

Authorities say Pagli returned home after dropping off her 3-year-old daughter, Gianna, at day care on Feb. 22 and almost immediately began arguing with Marissa, an 18-year-old Manhattanville freshman. She strangled her daughter, authorities said, then tried killing herself by first cutting her left wrist and then by hanging herself with a belt on a doorknob.

John Pagli, a college maintenance supervisor, returned home shortly after noon to find his daughter’s body and his wife unconscious in their second-floor apartment.

In court papers, Pagli told police that she strangled Marissa because her daughter was disrespectful and rude. “I couldn’t take it any more,” she told police. “She pushed my last button.”

According to the statements, she then used a belt to try to strangle herself but failed, as she did in an attempt to slash her wrist. She said she had left a note for her husband. After her arrest, she tried to kill herself again by tying socks around her neck in jail.

Water damages King statue at courthouse

Blame it on the rain.

Water damage has weakened the speckled black granite base holding the silicon bronze statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Westchester County Courthouse. According to county spokeswoman Lynne Bedell Smith, the base became brittle and started to deteriorate because of water infiltration. The county’s Department of Public Works started repairs on Friday with a contractor and roped off the statue with metal barriers and yellow “caution” tape. The tape was taken down this afternoon, but the stripped-down base remains.

Smith said they will cap the base so no more water will damage the base, which typically displays a timeline of King’s life and the names of county officials who approved the 20-foot, two-ton bronze monument of the slain civil rights leader.

“This is a regular county maintenance project by the DPW,” Smith said. “The contractor is not specific to this project – apparently he does all the county’s cement and concrete work. The county has the responsibility to maintain the statue and so will be paying any costs.”

The statue, created by artist Milton Sherrill of Mount Vernon, was unveiled in 2007 and cost $350,000.