Westchester inmates, upset over ban on dental floss, sue for $500 million

NEW YORK— A group of Westchester County Jail inmates are suing the county for $500 million, claiming in a federal lawsuit that the jail’s refusal to let them use dental floss has ruined their teeth.

In a 25-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Santiago Gomez, 26, the lead plaintiff in the suit who is being held on a gun charge, chides his jailors for violating the prisoners’ civil rights by “not allowing inmates access to dental floss while being aware that failure to use causes cavities.”

“We feel that the Westchester County Department of Corrections is depriving inmates of the use of dental floss, which is causing us cavities,” Gomez told The Journal News/LoHud.com in a telephone interview today. “They recognize the importance of it, that you have to floss, in the regulation manual. They clearly state if you don’t floss you’re going to get cavities.”

Read the entire report here.

Mary Kennedy autopsy: Anti-depressants, no alcohol in blood stream

WHITE PLAINS— Mary Kennedy had at least three anti-depressants in her blood stream when she committed suicide in May, a Westchester County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report shows.

The autopsy report, reviewed by The Journal News today, also shows that Kennedy had no alcohol in her system when she hung herself with a rope in a barn on her Bedford estate on May 16. Her blood did contain trazodone, desmethylvenlaxafine and venlafaxine, all classified as anti-depressants.

The 52-year-old, who had fought a long battle with depression, died from asphyxia due to hanging, a finding supported by the injuries to her neck. She was brought to the Westchester Medical Examiner’s Office for the autopsy, still with “a beige rope around the neck” and “the knot present on this rope lying on her back with 9 loops,” the report said.

She had no food in her stomach.

Kennedy was the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental advocate and son of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. The couple had been embroiled in a divorce and custody fight over their four children.

Read the entire report here.

Carmel fire exclusive: Thomas Sullivan Jr. accidentally sparked fire that killed his family

By Shawn Cohen and Terence Corcoran

CARMEL— A lit cigarette flicked by Thomas Sullivan Jr. accidentally sparked the fire that killed his parents and his two sisters, a source close to the investigation told The Journal News exclusively.

Carmel police said the fire was not intentionally set. They are expected to announce the cause of the May 1 fire at a 4 p.m. press conference.

Thomas Sullivan Sr., 48, his wife, Donna, 47, and their daughters, Meaghan, 17, and Mairead, 15, died in the fast-moving fire at their 19 Wyndham Lane home. The lone survivor, Thomas Sullivan Jr., 20, told police and relatives that he was roused by his father, who perished when he went back inside the burning building in a valiant effort to save his wife and daughters.

Thomas Sullivan Sr. was a respected captain in the Larchmont Police Department and a beloved member of the Carmel community, where he volunteered in his children’s youth sports leagues. Meaghan was set to graduate later this month with her fellow seniors at Carmel High School, where Mairead was also a student.

Carmel police detectives and Putnam County Sheriff’s investigators worked alongside members of the Putnam County Fire Investigation Team in determining the cause of the fatal blaze.

Read the complete report here.

Novack trial: Veliz denies credit card purchase tied to 2009 killing

WHITE PLAINS Cristobal Veliz testified in federal court today that he and his credit cards were in New York on April 4, 2009, the day that his sister’s mother-in-law, Bernice Novack, was bludgeoned to death inside her Fort Lauderdale home.

So, he had no explantion why one of those cards was used in a K-Mart in Miami that day, other than to insist that he wasn’t the one who made the purchase.

The denial contradicts the earlier testimony of Alejandro Garcia, Bernice Novack’s confessed killer, who joined other associates in the deadly plot in maintaining that Veliz recruited them for the job and accompanied them to Fort Lauderdale to scout out Bernice Novack’s house and look for her.

Veliz, 58, is now charged with his 55-year-old sister, Narcy Novack, with masterminding not only Bernice Novack’s killing, but the brutal beating death of Ben Novack Jr., Narcy Novack’s husband, at the Hilton Rye Town three months later.

On the witness stand in U.S. District Court in White Plains, Veliz said he did not go to Florida until after learning of Bernice Novack’s death. On Monday, he had testified that he had no idea where she lived until he accompanied Ben Novack to the house that week to help him open the windows and air out the house clear it of the smell from what had happened.

He reiterated today that he had an “excellent” relationship with Ben Novack and was trying to help him deal with his mother’s sudden death.

“I wanted him to get that out of his mind,” Veliz testified. “We actually went out on a boat. I wanted him to think of something else.”

But Garcia and another hired killer, Joel Gonzalez, testified that Veliz also recruited them for the fatal attack on Ben Novack just months later, on July 12, 2009. They said Narcy Novack let them into the couple’s suite at the Rye Brook hotel, where she remained for most of the brutal attack. They said they pummeled the Florida millionaire with dumbbells before Garcia cut his eyes and gagged him.

Prosecutors contend that Veliz and Narcy Novack masterminded the plot to cash in on Ben Novack’s fortune, estimated to be worth as much as $10 million. Narcy Novack feared her husband would divorce her and end her lavish lifestyle. Ben Novack’s mistress, former call girl and porn star Rebecca Bliss, testified that she tried to buy her out for $10,000 to end the affair with her husband.

Defense attorneys have disputed the government’s account, and have suggested that Narcy Novack’s daughter, May Abad, had a stronger motive to carry out the two killings: Her children stand to inherit the Novack fortune if her mother is convicted.

On Monday, Veliz implicated Abad in the pot and testified that Abad had him abducted and held in a Florida basement for 18 days months after Ben Novack’s killing.

Ben Novack earned millions through his company, Convention Concepts Unlimited, primarily hosting Amway Global conventions nationwide. He founded the company in 1978, shortly after his father lost ownership of the glitzy Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach to bankruptcy. The elder Novack opened the hotel in the late 1950s, and ran it during it’s heyday as a favorite stomping ground for the rich and famous.

Read more tomorrow in The Journal News and lohud.com

Novack trial: Cristobal Veliz denies role in deadly plot

WHITE PLAINS— “No.”

Over and over, dozens and dozens of times, that was the answer given today by defendant Cristobal Veliz as he denied any involvement in the 2009 deaths of his brother-in-law, Florida millionaire Ben Novack Jr., and Novack’s mother, Bernice Novack.

Veliz denied the things the killers’ claimed he said and did over several months in 2009, insisting he did not recruit them or finance them and certainly had not accompanied them to the Hilton Rye Town, where Novack was brutally killed on July 12, 2009.

He didn’t even know where the hotel was, he told his lawyer, Lawrence Sheehan, as the seventh week of his trial began in U.S. District Court. Veliz, 58, and his sister, Novack’s wife, Narcy, 55, are charged with racketeering and other crimes for allegedly orchestrating both Ben Novack’s murder and his mother’s, who was bludgeoned to death in her Fort Lauderdale home April 4, 2009.

Veliz began his testimony on Thursday and implicated his niece, May Abad – Narcy Novack’s daughter and Ben Novack’s stepdaughter – saying he saw her with the killers in the days leading up to the Rye Brook hotel attack.

This afternoon Veliz is expected to testify that he was kidnapped in September 2009, and held in a basement for more than two weeks, and that Abad was behind the kidnapping.

But U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas ruled Veliz would not be able to testify as to any conversation he might have had with Abad while he was allegedly being held, particularly his claim that she confessed to having Ben Novack killed.

“It’s a way for Mr. Veliz to try to contort the rules of evidence to pin this on someone else,” Karas said.

Defense attorneys have suggested that Abad had a stronger motive to have her stepfather and his mother killed – her children stand to collect the Novack fortune, valued as high as $10 million, if Narcy Novack is convicted of orchestrating the killings.

Federal prosecutors counter that Veliz and Narcy Novack masterminded the fatal plot to cash in on the money. Narcy Novack feared her husband was going to leave her, ending her lavish lifestyle. Both killers in the plot, Alejandro Garcia and Joel Gonzalez, testified that Veliz enlisted them for the scheme and that Narcy Novack let them into the couple’s hotel suite and remained for much of the brutal attack on her husband.

Ben Novack made millions through Convention Concepts Unlimited, the company he formed in the late 1970s after his father lost ownership of the Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach to bankruptcy