Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rabbi Daniel Greer of New Haven found liable for $15 million in civil trial accused in May 2016 of repeatedly raping and molesting a former student, Eliyahu Mirlis, of New Jersey, over several years

Rabbi Daniel Greer of New Haven File photo 
 New Haven Rabbi Daniel Greer found liable for $15 million in civil trial alleging he sexually abused a student

By Anna Bisaro, New Haven Register

Rabbi Daniel Greer, his wife, Sara, and lawyer William Ward leave the federal courthouse in Hartford Thursday. Anna Bisaro — New Haven Register


A federal jury Thursday awarded a New Jersey man $15 million in his civil lawsuit accusing Daniel Greer, a prominent New Haven rabbi, real estate developer and founder of an Orthodox Jewish school of sexually abusing him for years while he attended Greer’s yeshiva.

The verdict was read at 3:40 p.m., with jurors in agreement that there was enough evidence to find Greer and the Yeshiva of New Haven legally liable over the victim’s accusations that Greer raped and sexually molested him over several years.

The jury was tasked with determining liability on civil counts against Greer and the yeshiva. The counts included negligence by the school, intentional infliction of emotional distress by Greer and the school, recklessness by the school and Greer and assault and battery against Greer.

The jury found there was sufficient evidence on each count.

The $15 million award in compensatory damages was announced at the time of the verdict. The victim also is entitled to punitive damages. By state law, punitive damages are calculated as one-third of the verdict, or $5 million in this case. As of late Thursday, the amount of punitive damages had not been determined. The judge asked the lawyers to file a memo about how they felt punitive damages should be determined and the amount would be discussed later.

Greer, principal of Yeshiva in New Haven and the Gan School, who also was a leader in the revitalization of the city’s Edgewood neighborhood, was accused in May 2016 of repeatedly raping and molesting a former student, Eliyahu Mirlis, of New Jersey, over several years in the early- to mid-2000s. Mirlis attended the school from 2001 to 2005.

After the verdict was read and the jurors had left the courtroom, Mirlis’ lawyer, Antonio Ponvert III, pumped his fist in celebration as he gathered his belongings.

“This completely justifies all faith in the justice system,” Ponvert said. “Even incredibly difficult ... cases can be solved fairly.”

Neither Mirlis nor his wife, who had been present for some of the trial, were present for the reading of the verdict. Mirlis appeared in court to testify, but was absent for the rest of the proceedings.

“What the plaintiff suffered and has been suffered by children for generations needs to stop,” Ponvert said. “Child abuse in all its forms is a plague that we should all work together to solve.”

Greer’s attorney Bill Ward said they would appeal the verdict.

“We feel the verdict is outrageous, especially in light of the fact that the jury was deadlocked a mere two hours before they rendered it,” he said.

David Grudberg, who along with Ward was Greer’s trial counsel, said, “We are deeply disappointed with the verdict and will pursue all possible options to challenge it, including an appeal.”

Mirlis claimed in the federal lawsuit that Greer had sexually abused him in his sophomore, junior and senior years at the school, and that some of the abuse had occurred on school property. The federal complaint states that the abuse began when Mirlis was 15 and Greer was in his 60s. The alleged abuse included sexual acts and being forced to watch pornography while drinking alcohol. The suit also alleged these acts occurred in Greer’s home, motels in Branford, and other properties owned by the school.

The New Haven Register generally does not identify people who allege sexual abuse, but Mirlis wanted to come forward, his lawyer said. Mirlis, now 29, said the abuse has led him to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as distress, humiliation, depression, low self-esteem, and an inability to maintain emotional relationships, according to court documents.

According to court documents, Greer invoked his right against self-incrimination at a deposition last year. He repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights last week when he was compelled to testify at the civil trial.

Greer’s lawyers asked a judge to bar Mirlis from calling Greer to the witness stand, but the request was denied.

Ultimately, the jury was asked to decide whether the Yeshiva of New Haven was negligent in hiring and supervising Greer and whether Mirlis’ claims of suffering a result of that negligence and if Greer did cause the emotional distress Mirlis claimed to have suffered.

Greer declined to comment Thursday.

The jury heard closing arguments Wednesday morning and began deliberations just before lunch. A conclusion was not reached and the eight jurors — four men and four women — returned to deliberate Thursday.

Thursday morning began with a replaying of the deposition of Aviad Hack, another former student of Greer, who also claimed to have entered into a sexual relationship while he was a student at the Yeshiva in New Haven. Hack has not filed his own case, but said that later as an employee for the school, he knew of the abuse Greer allegedly was inflicting on other boys and did not report it.

The video played Thursday showed Hack being questioned by both sides about his alleged relationship with the rabbi. Hack said that he believed his relationship with Greer began sometime in 1991 or 1992 — he graduated in 1992 — and had continued to about 2003.

After watching the tape, the jurors continued their deliberations for another three hours. At about 12:30 p.m., they reentered the courtroom and told U.S. District Judge Michael Shea, who had presided over the case, that they could not come to an agreement on the first charge in the complaint — whether the school was negligent. Shea instructed the jury to return to deliberations and take the questions out of order if they had to, to continue moving on. Shea also said the jury should not feel rushed or pressured into making a decision.

In a civil trial, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. The threshold for civil liability is lower than in a criminal case, which requires guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. New Haven police have an open investigation involving the allegations of sexual assault by Greer.

Greer is one of the founders of the Gan School, which was founded as an experiment in blending religion and education in 1977.

A CT Department of Transportation worker setting up to do tree work seriously injured when he was struck by a vehicle on Route 15 in North Haven, CT.


A state Department of Transportation worker sustained serious injuries when he was struck by a vehicle Wednesday morning on Route 15 in North Haven.

While he is alive, DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick described the accident as “nearly a tragedy” and the DOT worker as at one point “one breath away from death.”

The DOT maintenance worker was setting up to do tree work, when the vehicle hit the employee and came to a stop in the work zone, Nursick said.

The accident happened on Route 15 south between exits 63 and 64, the North Haven Fire Department said on Twitter. The roadway was temporarily closed at exit 63 southbound, but all lanes were opened a few hours later.

Emergency personnel were on the scene. They advised motorists to avoid the area and expect delays.

“This is a classic case of motorists failing to uphold public safety when it comes to work zone signage,” Nursick said.

Nursick said motorists need to be aware, cautious and alert in a work zone, reminding drivers to slow down and pay attention.

First responders across the country plan to use Twitter Friday to raise awareness of “Move Over” laws as the summer travel season begins.

Connecticut’s “Move Over” law states that any motor vehicle operator driving on a highway should reduce their speed and move over one lane when approaching stationary emergency or disabled vehicles.

The state police will conduct a tweet-along, virtual ride-along, with Troop H Hartford from 3 to 11 p.m. to raise awareness of the “Move Over” law. They will be sharing patrol activities and “Move Over” pictures, messages and video.

The accident remains under investigation.

Dutra Group contract worker was injured after an adjacent excavator struck the cab of the his excavator while removing debris from the Feather River at the base of the spillway

OROVILLE, Calif. - A worker was injured in an industrial accident at the Oroville Dam spillway project.

The incident was reported at 3:24 a.m. Tuesday from the spillway area of the Oroville Dam. The area is under repair after the spillway was damaged by water releases in February.

Erin Mellon, Communications Advisor with the California Department of Water Resources, confirmed a contract worker was injured in a heavy equipment accident.

Mellon said the worker was operating an excavator, removing debris from the Feather River at the base of the spillway. An adjacent excavator struck the cab of the first excavator, injuring the man inside. The injured worker was taken by helicopter to Enloe Medical Center in Chico.

Mellon said as of 8:15 a.m., the worker was being prepared to be released from the hospital.

The worker is employed by the Dutra Group, a subcontractor on the spillway repair project. The worker's name was not released.

Harry Stewart, the chief operating officer for the Dutra Group, said the worker had been released from the hospital and is recovering well. Stewart said the worker hit is head during the incident but is expected to return to work by next week.

As far as future safety practices for employees working on the Oroville Dam, Stewart said the Dutra Group has a full, comprehensive safety program that addresses each and every potential incident that every employee is trained on.

"Specific to Oroville, we conduct a full hazard analysis and identify all the activities which may have safe hazards associated with them," said Stewart. "[Then] identify mitigation measures and go through a pretty extensive training with all of our personnel."

The Dutra Group officials said they are not sure exactly who is at fault at this time, but a full investigation will be conducted per standard protocol.


OROVILLE, CA (CBS13) – A construction worker near the Oroville Dam was injured while working on removing sediment, officials say.

The incident happened early Tuesday morning. The California Department of Water Resources says two excavators were working along the Feather River when one of them swung their bucket and struck the other’s cab.

Medics were called to the scene and the cab’s operator was soon airlifted to the Enloe Medical Center in Chico.

Officials say the worker is conscious, alert and is expected to be released from the hospital soon.

Work continues at the Oroville Dam and the spillway. Crews have begun demolition work on the lower chute of the damaged spillway.


BUTTE COUNTY — A man working at the Oroville Dam was injured by heavy equipment early Tuesday morning.

The man was hurt while working on an excavator that was removing sediment from the Feather River as part of the repair work on the damaged spillway, according to Erin Mellon with the Department of Natural Resources. Mellon said about 3:30 a.m., one excavator swung a bucket into another excavator.

One worker was hurt. Mellon said the worker was on track to be released from the hospital on Tuesday morning, and they are grateful that he was not seriously injured.

Mellon said safety remains their number one priority.

The accident is not expected to delay the work schedule at the spillway.

Two construction workers fell from a third-floor balcony while doing repair work at Nautical Watch condos in North Myrtle Beach

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Two workers fell from a third-floor balcony at a North Myrtle Beach condominium complex when the balcony partially collapsed.

According to City of North Myrtle Beach spokesperson Pat Dowling, the balcony collapse happened at Nautical Watch condos, located at 4515 S. Ocean Blvd, Tuesday morning. Two workers were making repairs to a third-floor balcony, when the balcony gave way, causing the two laborers to fall.

Dowling says the first worker fell to the second-floor balcony below and ultimately declined medical assistance. The second worker fell to the ground, Dowling says, and was transported by EMS “as a precaution.”

Information regarding what caused the balcony to partially collapse was not immediately available.



Two workers fell from a third-floor balcony while doing repair work in North Myrtle Beach Tuesday morning, city spokesman Pat Dowling confirmed.

The workers were repairing balconies at a building in the 4500 block of South Ocean Boulevard when one of the balconies collapsed, Dowling said. One worker fell to the ground and was transported to a nearby hospital. The other worker fell to the second floor and refused treatment at the scene.

SPEED KILLS: 18-year-old speeding driver Jose Villeda Romero (AKA Ricardo Sanabria) was killed after crashing his 2005 Ford Mustang into a fuel pump that burst into flames at a Dania Beach gas station

Teen was speeding in fiery fatal crash into gas pumps, investigators say

A 18-year-old driver was killed after crashing into a fuel pump that burst into flames at a Dania Beach gas station Tuesday night, authorities said.

The incident happened at the BP Gas on the Southeast 7th Street and South Federal Highway around 9:20 p.m., Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue officials said.

According to BSO investigators, Jose RomeRo was traveling west on 7th Street in a 2005 Ford Mustang when he lost control after going over a speed hump, sending the car between two gas pumps before it caught fire. The impact was so strong the gas pump almost ended up on the road.

Firefighters responded and were able to put out the fire within minutes using foam, but they were unable to get Romero out and he was declared dead at the scene.

"I turned around looking for another fire extinguisher and on the wall was the emergency shutoff, and I ran over and hit it and all the power cut to the pumps and the overhead lighting, and by that point the flames were just too much for the powder fire extinguishers to do anything," witness Scott Robb said.

"There wouldn't have been any possible way that the victim could've gotten out of the car because the car was fully involved, it was all engulfed in flames," said Michael Wolf, a witness to the crash.

No one was pumping gas at the time of the crash. Officials believe speed played a factor in the crash, but their investigation continues and an autopsy will be performed.


a booming crash, a spray of debris onto Federal Highway, and two-foot flames leaping from beneath an overturned car as it leaked fuel was the scene a Dania Beach man happened upon Tuesday night.

The convertible Ford Mustang with an 18-year-old driver at the wheel had careened into fuel pumps at a BP station a moment before, igniting the explosive fire.

“I looked over and saw the car on its side where the pump normally is,” Scott Robb, 47, of Dania Beach, said Wednesday. “There was about two-foot flames coming from under the car and you could see fuel leaking, and it progressed from there.”

The young driver died at the scene, 701 S. Federal Highway. He was identified as Jose Villeda Romero, of Hollywood, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Instinctively, Robb had grabbed a fire extinguisher to join another man in an attempt to put out the fire. “There was no pin, I pulled the handle and nothing happened, I looked at the gauge and it was empty.”

In a frantic search for another extinguisher, Robb spotted the fuel pump emergency shut-off button near the door of the convenience store. He hit it. The overhead lights went dark, power to the pumps cut off — but it was too late.

“At that point it was too far engulfed to get any closer,” Robb said. “Unfortunately there was just so little we could do.”

He never saw or heard Romero trapped inside the car. “It was disappointing to see so many people just filming it on their cellphones rather than doing anything,” Robb said.

The young man’s grieving relatives told reporters at the BP station Wednesday that Romero, originally from Honduras, had been in this country only about eight months and was working to support his immediate family back home. A cousin said the convertible 2005 Ford Mustang was Romero’s dream car.

“I don’t know what was going through his mind,” Henry Gutierrez, a cousin, told WSVN-Ch. 7.

Romero was speeding west in the eastbound lanes of Southeast Seventh Street shortly before 9:30 p.m. when he drove over a speed hump, lost control and slammed into the pumps, said Mike Jachles, spokesman for Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue.

Firefighters arrived to find the Mustang wedged on its side between two fuel islands. One pump flamed; parts of another had been hurled onto the highway.

“Crews made a quick knock down of the active fuel fire with firefighting foam,” Jachles said. “The car was on its side, vertically. The fuel pump sheared off and was thrown about 50 to 75 feet into the street.”

The convenience store reopened Wednesday, but the gas pumps remained closed and cordoned off with police tape. The fuel island was charred and clumps of twisted and burned metal, aluminum and plastic littered the ground. It’s not clear when gas pumping would resume.

T.J. Gillespie, who lives nearby, heard the crash and saw the smoke Tuesday night. He returned Wednesday to look at the damage.

“All I see is just a black cloud and I can’t quite figure out what the cloud is from yet, so I run outside my house and I look over here at the gas station,” he said. “And that’s when I see that the car was already on fire.”

Romero’s relatives identified him by the name of Ricardo Sanabria. Investigators, however, say the name Jose Villeda Romero is from his driver’s license.“The family calls him another name,” Jachles said. “But the name that we released is his legal name in the state of Florida

Dean Mowen, 53, will serve 5 years in federal prison for farm insurance fraud scheme along with David Speer

Dean Mowen gets 5 month federal sentence 

1 day, 21 hours ago by Scott Hardy 

Convicted in January of Mail Fraud, Conspiracy in insurance fraud scheme
A Quincy man, convicted for his role in a fire that destroyed two pieces of farm equipment in 2014, has been sentenced to five months in federal prison. 

53 year old Dean Mowen was in Federal District court in Springfield Monday, where he was sentenced to five months in federal prison, and three years' supervised release. 

The US Attorney's Office says that the first five months will be served as community confinement; then eight months of home confinement with electronic monitoring. 

Mowen was convicted in January on counts of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, for his involvement in an insurance fraud scheme. Federal prosecutors proved that Mowen and co-defendant David Speer bought the machinery in Mississippi for nearly $30,000. Mowen then had them insured for $108,000, before having Speer set them on fire. Mowen then claimed the loss with fake receipts. 

Speer was sentenced earlier this year to two and a half years in prison, and three years’ supervised release. Mowen will start serving his sentence this fall.

Utility investigators are not sure what caused a fire in an underground utility vault that knocked out electricity to about 2,000 Pacific Power customers.

By Allan Brettman

The Oregonian/OregonLive

Officials said Wednesday morning they are not sure what caused a fire in an underground utility vault that knocked out electricity to about 2,000 Pacific Power customers.

"I'm sure that will be coming along," Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said. "As (utility workers) did the repairs they collected forensic evidence. They'll be looking at that" to determine a cause.

The restoration for most customers began at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, a few hours earlier than projected. Most customers were restored by 8 p.m.

A 911 caller reported the fire at about 5:30 p.m. after flames were seen near Northwest Eighth Avenue and Couch Street, where the utility vault is located. In addition to electrical disruptions for businesses and residences within the affected area, the ensuing 24 hours or so saw disruptions to TriMet bus and MAX light rail service, traffic signals, land line telephone service. The affected area was roughly rom Broadway on the east to Interstate 405 on the west and from Southwest Jefferson Street north to Northwest Davis Street (two blocks north of West Burnside).

"Once we determined the extent of the damage to an underground transformer vault, we could restore service to customers not directly affected by the damage," Curt Mansfield, vice president of operations, said in a news release.

About 24 customers close to the damaged vault still await reconnection. Those customers have service wires that go directly to the damaged area, Gauntt said.

Because it was an electrical fire in an enclosed area, Portland Fire & Rescue could only wait for the fire to burn itself out on Monday, bureau spokesman Lt. Rich Chatman said. Dousing the flames with water is ruled out in such fire because water conducts electricity.

Chatman said the fire's cause is being investigated.

Nearly all of Pacific Power's Oregon customers are outside the Portland metropolitan area, where the Portland-based utility has 75,000 customers. The utility has 740,000 customers in Oregon, Washington and California.

Portland General Electric, which has nearly 850,000 customers, serves the bulk of the Portland metro area.

Pacific Power serves the area affected by the vault fire through an agreement between Pacific Power and PGE in the 1970s, Gauntt said. At that time, he said, the utilities swapped service areas in the Portland metro area to improve efficiency in service delivery.


Most affected by downtown Portland outage should have power again, Pacific 
Updated on May 24, 2017 at 9:15 AM

By Jim Ryan

The Oregonian/OregonLive

Reception center for displaced
Multnomah County has opened a reception center for anyone affected by Tuesday's fire and power outage.
The center, at the Mead Building, 421 S.W. 5th Ave., will be open until 9 p.m. County staff and the American Red Cross will help anyone with medications, transportation, mental health support, assistance applying for benefits or other needs.
Coffee, water and food will be provided, the county said.
Other resources the county provided:
- The Aging and Disability Resource Connection Helpline at 503-988-3646.
- If anyone is feeling overwhelmed, they can call the Mental Health Crisis Line at 800-716-9769
- Inquiries about the power outage should be directed to Pacific Power (888-221-7070).

Updated at 8:30 p.m.

Pacific Power said most customers affected by a fire-caused power outage in downtown Portland would have electricity again by 8 p.m. Tuesday — more than 24 hours after the outage began.

Officials shut down power for about 2,000 customers in a wide swath of downtown -- from apartment dwellers to some iconic businesses -- Monday evening. The outage was caused by a fire in an underground vault housing electrical equipment near Northwest Couch Street and Broadway, Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said.

Pacific Power said about two-dozen customers -- meters, not people -- near Couch Street and 8th Avenue will remain without power into Wednesday morning.

The outage has stretched from Broadway on the east to Interstate 405 on the west and from Southwest Jefferson Street north to Northwest Davis Street (two blocks north of West Burnside).

The Portland Bureau of Transportation in a news release Tuesday afternoon said travelers should expect delays and seek other routes to avoid the area.

The agency reminded motorists, bikers and pedestrians to treat dark signals as all-way stop signs.

Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St.; the Multnomah County Central Library, 801 S.W. 10th Ave.; and Portland Art Museum, 1219 S.W. Park Ave., were closed Tuesday.

Some businesses in the affected area stayed open. They included the Target store at 939 S.W. Morrison St. and Regal Cinemas Fox Tower 10, 846 S.W. Park Ave., according to people who answered phones at the respective businesses.

The outage has affected the phone service for some businesses and government agencies outside the affected area. The University Club of Portland at 1225 S.W. 6th Ave. was without phone service for at least part of Tuesday but remained open. City Commissioner Dan Saltzman posted a tweet saying his office had no phone service but he encouraged people to send him email.

Gauntt said the fire's cause is unknown and that Portland Fire & Rescue extinguished the blaze. Someone called 911 about 5:30 p.m. Monday after flames were seen, he said.

For information on impacts to TriMet bus and MAX light rail service, check For information on power outages, contact Pacific Power.

— The Oregonian/OregonLive


Vaughn Kopetsky regularly visited area flea markets on Sundays, searching for treasures with his brother.

On Sunday, the pair made their weekly rounds — traveling to one in Fayette County before heading north to Jonnet Flea Market in Indiana County.

“He loved going to flea markets,” Ricky Kopetsky of Unity Township said of his brother. “He liked old Christmas stuff.”

Vaughn Kopetsky, 60, died Monday in a Rostraver trench collapse while working for R.A. Monzo Construction, according to investigators. Kopetsky of Derry had held the job for 30 years, his brother said.

“He was dedicated to his job,” Ricky Kopetsky said. “He would spend weekends on his own time” preparing for the work week ahead.

Investigators said Kopetsky was working on a storm sewer system project in an 8-foot-deep trench in the 200 block of Country Drive at 3:25 p.m. Monday when the walls collapsed, trapping him as he tried to escape. A metal safety box was inside the ditch, but the collapse occurred in an unsupported area as Kopetsky used a ladder to climb out, police said

Co-workers dug out Kopetsky, but he died at the scene, according to a news release from the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office.

The township contracted with R.A. Monzo Construction to install and replace storm drains, according to solicitor Al Gaudio. A message left with the construction company Tuesday was not returned.

R.A. Monzo Construction has no prior citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the agency's online database.

Township police and OSHA are investigating. Police could not be reached for comment.

OSHA requires trenches 5 feet or deeper to use a protective system unless the excavation site is entirely in stable rock. For trenches less than 5 feet deep, a “competent” person may determine that a protective system is not required, its website states.

Two workers are killed every month in trench collapses, an agency fact sheet states. In 2016, 23 American workers died and 12 were injured in collapses.

Kopetsky, an Army veteran, and his brother would usually talk by phone during the week after their Sunday flea market jaunts. He regularly was the “first guy down in the hole” on the job and had a commercial driver's license to operate heavy machinery, his brother said.

“Whatever they needed him to do,” Ricky Kopetsky said, mentioning his brother's honest attitude. “He was an up-front guy. He would tell you the way it was.”

He is survived by siblings in the area. An autopsy was planned Tuesday. A funeral home had not been chosen.

Kopetsky's death was the second in three months because of a trench collapse in the county.

On Feb. 22, an 18-year-old working with his father in nearby South Huntingdon died when a 10-foot-deep trench collapsed, burying him in tons of soil.

Adam Skokut Jr. suffocated after the trench walls collapsed as he and his father installed a septic system at a home in their neighborhood outside Smithton, authorities said. Rescuers had to secure the walls of the trench before they could start retrieval efforts.

OSHA officials have not released a report on that accident.

Westmoreland County Coroner, Kenneth A. Bacha, has released the following information on a trench collapse fatality that occurred in Rostraver Township.

 The decedent, Vaughn L. Kopetsky, 60 y/o male from Derry Township, was working within a trench replacing a storm drainage system. The decedent was in the process of exiting the trench when a wall of the trench collapsed, trapping the decedent within the soil. Co-workers began to dig and extricated the decedent from the trench. Emergency medical personnel responded to the scene, however all life saving measures were unsuccessful. Deputy Coroner Timothy P. O’Donnell pronounced the decedent dead at the scene. An autopsy will be performed on May 23, 2017. Official cause and manner of death will be pending autopsy results. Toxicology results will not be available for several weeks. A funeral home has not been selected at this time. Rostraver Township Police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also investigated.===================

Officials are still trying to determine what led to a deadly trench collapse in Westmoreland County on Monday.

Investigators said the victim, Vaughn Kopetsky, 60, was working in the trench along County Drive in Rostraver Township.

Officials said crews were installing pipe in the ground at the time to enlarge the existing storm sewer. The $119,000-project has been in the works for about two years.

Officials said Kopetsky was using a ladder to climb out of the trench and an unsupported wall around him collapsed.

Relatives said Kopetsky worked for RA Monzo for 30 years. His brother said Vaughn liked collecting guns and antique Christmas decorations. The two went to flea markets just about every weekend.

Officials with OSHA said there were no updates on Tuesday and they're working through the investigation. A search of online records turned up no prior accusations against RA Monzo Construction.

An engineer for the project said he's not sure when work will resume or if the company has to wait until OSHA's investigation is complete. Stay with Channel 11 News and for continuing coverage.


Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick is among more than 40 public officials and agencies named in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by former Clarkson University soccer coach Nick Hillary acquitted of murder charges.

Onondaga DA among many named in civil rights suit by Nick Hillary, acquitted of murder

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick at a 2016 press conference. He and several others have been named in a federal lawsuit file May 2017 claiming a violation of civil rights. (Ellen M. Blalock |

  By Kira Maddox |  
on May 21, 2017 at 1:54 PM, updated May 22, 2017 at 7:35 AM
CANTON, N.Y. -- Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick is among more than 40 public officials and agencies named in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a former Clarkson University soccer coach acquitted of murder charges.

Onondaga County and Fitzpatrick were named in the lawsuit filed by Oral "Nick" Hillary, a former Clarkson University soccer coach accused of second-degree murder.

The lawsuit, filed May 15 in the Eastern District of New York, claims Hillary's civil rights were violated during the 2011 homicide investigation. 

A St. Lawrence County judge found Hillary not guilty of second-degree murder in September 2016.

In the lawsuit, Hillary argues he was wrongly targeted for the killing of Garret Phillips, 12, while other possible suspects were purposely ignored. The 41-page lawsuit alleges a conspiracy among the St. Lawrence County District Attorney's Office, the sheriff's office, Potsdam police and state police to place blame on Hillary.

Hillary's lawsuit claims officers ignored leads and evidence that pointed toward John E. Jones, a deputy sheriff who also had ties to Phillips, as a possible suspect. It also alleges that St. Lawrence County DA Mary Rain, another defendant in the lawsuit, campaigned with the Phillips' family while vying for the DA position, bringing politics into the case.

Attorneys Amy Marion and Bruce Barket argue Hillary's case was a marred by false arrest, malicious prosecution, falsifying and fabrication of evidence, and the purposeful withholding of exculpatory material.

"The Plaintiff was defamed, suffered stigmatizing-plus injuries related to public humiliation, damage to his reputation, loss of employment, loss of personal associations and loss of the benefits of liberty, and as a result, his rights to due process were thereby violated," the lawsuit states.

Ex-Clarkson coach Nick Hillary not guilty in 12-year-old Garrett Phillips' death
Oral "Nick" Hillary was on trial for second-degree murder in the October 2011 murder of a Potsdam boy.

Fitzpatrick became a co-prosecutor for the case alongside Rain after she reached out to him for advice, Fitzpatrick told

Fitzpatrick, traveling 130 miles to work the case, took on more of a leadership role in the prosecution as time went on, giving both the opening and closing statements and handling the bigger witnesses during trial.

Phillips was the son of Tandy Cyrus Collins, Hillary's ex-girlfriend. He was found strangled in his home in October 2011.

Fitzpatrick and Rain argued in front of Judge Felix Catena that the defendant lied about his alibi and should be found guilty, claiming he killed the boy out of jealousy after the relationship ended.

Defense lawyers Peter Dumas, Norman Siegel and Earl Ward stated there were no physical evidence or eyewitnesses to tie Hillary to the murder and, like the lawsuit, that law enforcement targeted Hillary without adequately vetting other suspects.

DA Fitzpatrick attacks legal claim by acquitted ex-soccer coach: 'It's garbage'
DA Fitzpatrick attacks legal claim by acquitted ex-soccer coach: 'It's garbage'

The Onondaga County DA took the opportunity to take another shot at the man acquitted of killing 12-year-old Garrett Phillips.

Fitzpatrick previously told Hillary's claims in the lawsuit were "garbage."

"I'm not going to pay a dime of taxpayer money defending it," the DA said of the lawsuit. "If I do defend it, I fully expect to be compensated by Mr. Hillary after the lawsuit is thrown out."
Also named as defendants are:
  • St. Lawrence County and its District Attorney's office
  • Several unnamed St. Lawrence County district attorney's office employees
  • Several unnamed St. Lawrence County employees
  • St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin M. Wells
  • St. Lawrence County Deputy Sheriff John. E. Jones Jr.
  • Several unnamed sheriff's office employees
  • Village of Potsdam and its police department
  • Former Potsdam police chief Edward Tischler
  • Current Potsdam police chief Kevin M. Bates
  • Former Potsdam police lieutenant Mark Murray
  • Several unnamed Village of Potsdam employees
  • New York State Police
  • Trooper Gary Snell
  • State Police Investigators Theodore Levinson
  • Crime Lab Director Ray Wickenheiser
  • Director of Biological Science Julie Pizziketti
  • Several unnamed New York State Police employees

A spark from welding equipment being used outside led to the fire at A&P Auto Parts in Cicero, NY

Welding spark likely cause of massive Cicero fire; black smoke visible for miles
A fire was reported at A&P Auto Parts in Cicero May 23, 2017. Fire department officials said a man was welding outside when a spark set a nearby pile of scrap on fire. (Cicero Police Department)

  By Kira Maddox |
updated May 23, 2017 at 9:43 PM

CICERO, N.Y. -- Thick, black smoke was seen for miles after a massive fire sparked outside a commercial building in northern Onondaga County Tuesday morning.

Officials believe a spark from welding equipment being used outside led to the fire, which had flames reaching heights of 20 to 30 feet, said Jon Barrett, chief of the Cicero Volunteer Fire Department.
It took firefighters about 45 minutes to get the large outdoor fire under control, officials said. They stayed for a full two hours to make sure there were no hidden embers.Cicero Police Department

The county 911 center received a report of an industrial fire at 11:03 a.m. in Cicero, dispatch records show. A fire started outside A&P Auto Parts at 8572 Brewerton Rd.

A&P has been in business since 1969, specializing in dismantling vehicles and selling used and remanufactured automobile parts.

An off-site contractor was working on the company's car crusher with a welding tool when a spark ignited a nearby pile of scrap metal, Barrett said.

The scrap pile and fire covered about a 400 square-foot area, Barrett said. The pile was predominantly made up of old metal and plastics from previously crushed vehicles that were supposed to go out for recycling.

"The positive thing was that there was no fuel or gasoline in any of the cars," he said.

People saw dark smoke from the blaze from miles away, including from nearby Interstate 81 past the tree line. Many people called 911 to report the fire, Barrett said.

The road was closed at the intersection of Brewerton Road/Route 11 and Route 31, and at the intersection with Meltzer Court for about an hour while firefighters worked to control the flames. A&P didn't formally close, but it did keep employees at a safe distance unless they were called on to help with something.

"We have a good working relationship with them through trainings and everything," Barrett said.

It took about 45 minutes to get the bulk of the fire under control, though firefighters spent about two hours on scene making sure there were no hidden pockets inside the scrap, Barrett said. A&P workers used different machinery to lift and move the heavy piles of metal so firefighters could check for lingering embers, he said.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the outside pile, and it did not spread to any important machinery or the A&P building, Barrett said. He said the business operated normally the rest of the day.

No serious injuries were reported to civilians, employees, or firefighters.

Members of the North Syracuse and Brewerton Fire Departments were also called to the scene, with the East Syracuse Fire Department and Clay Fire Department on standby and fielding other calls in the area.

Lawnmower confirmed cause of Golden Gate Estates, Florida fire that caused $400,000 in damages

Lawnmower confirmed cause of Golden Gate Estates fire 

Updated: May 23, 2017 4:48 PM EST


State forestry officials confirmed Tuesday that a massive fire that burned 7,500 acres in Golden Gate Estates last month was caused by a lawnmower.

A homeowner on 30th Avenue SE said he was mowing the lawn the morning of April 20, and when he went into his house, he noticed smoke coming from the rear of his property.

He called 911 and tried to extinguish the fire, but was unable to.

Officials say the lawnmower likely caused the fire, either by striking a rock or from the mower itself.

The fire destroyed five structures, with an estimated total loss of more than $400,000.

The homeowner will be responsible for paying suppression costs associated with the fire, but no criminal charges will be filed.