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Suspect in NY fire pleads not guilty

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2011/06/24 08:03

An 18-year-old student has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder in a case that has brought unusual attention to a Hasidic Jewish enclave in New York.

Shaul Spitzer of New Square is accused of severely burning a neighbor, Aron Rottenberg, with gasoline on May 22. Rottenberg claims Spitzer was acting at the direction of the village's chief rabbi because Rottenberg had stopped praying at the rabbi's synagogue.

Spitzer was arraigned Friday in Rockland County Court on charges of attempted murder, attempted arson and assault. His lawyer entered not-guilty pleas to all charges. He said outside court that Spitzer did not intend to harm anyone or to burn down Rottenberg's house.

He also said the chief rabbi had no involvement.

New York's top court has upheld Gov. David Paterson's power to appoint a lieutenant governor, reversing a lower court's decision.

The court ruling released Tuesday is a timely victory for Paterson, who is facing calls from national Democratic Party leaders to abandon his bid for governor in 2010.

The ruling makes Richard Ravitch the state's lietenant governor. Paterson appointed him July 8 to help break a monthlong Senate leadership struggle,

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos then filed a lawsuit challenging Paterson's authority to make the appointment.

The lieutenant governor's post had been empty since Paterson stepped up to replace Eliot Spitzer, who resigned last year amid a prostitution scandal.

An appeals court says the federal government does not have to release information about wiretaps from the investigation that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals found Friday that The New York Times had not shown it has a First Amendment right to the material.

A lower court had ordered the release of the FBI documents, which could reveal details about the origins and scope of the investigation.

The Times said it is disappointed and is reviewing the decision. It said public access to such records would provide "a valuable check on law enforcement agencies and on the courts."

The documents named other clients of the Emperor's Club VIP prostitution service.

David Paterson became governor in March 2008 after Spitzer resigned in disgrace.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the New York attorney general's office can investigate whether national banks discriminated against minorities seeking mortgages.

The justices overturned part of a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that entirely blocked the state office from investigating or enforcing the fair lending laws against national banks because they are subject instead to federal regulation.

In the court's main split opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia concluded the state attorney general cannot issue subpoenas, but can bring judicial enforcement actions.

In 2005, Eliot Spitzer, then the state attorney general, began investigating possible racial discrimination in mortgage lending. He sent letters of inquiry to mortgage lenders, including banks such as Wells Fargo, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.

The probe was prompted by data that Spitzer said appeared to show a significantly higher percentage of high-interest home mortgage loans issued to black and Hispanic borrowers than to white borrowers.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a federal agency that oversees nationally chartered banks, sued to enjoin the probe on the grounds it fell outside state jurisdiction. A consortium of national banks also sued.

The boss of a prostitution ring used by disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer should serve at least two years in prison, prosecutors said Tuesday.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court, they argued Mark Brener earned "substantial punishment" with his role in the business and should receive the two to two and a half years in prison that was included in his plea agreement.

Brener pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit a prostitution offense and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He's scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Prosecutors cited his position as head of Emperors Club VIP and criticized his contrition, saying it didn't seem sincere.

"That the defendant continues to insist upon his moral rectitude and his legitimate intentions with respect to the Emperors Club raises a serious concern about the defendant's potential recidivism," prosecutors wrote.

Brener lawyer Murray Richman noted his client is 63 and said "time alone will prohibit the likelihood of him doing this again."

"In no way does Mr. Brener try to avoid his responsibility," Richman said. "He recognizes he did wrong."

The lawyer noted that his client has been in prison since his arrest last March, when Spitzer resigned after it was revealed he had met one of the Emperors Club's prostitutes at a Washington, D.C., hotel weeks earlier.

Prosecutors said in November they would not charge Spitzer after investigators found no evidence that he misused public or campaign funds for prostitution. The federal government typically does not prosecute clients of prostitution rings.

The manager of the escort service was sentenced to six months in prison last week. A booking agent received a year of probation and a second booking agent is awaiting sentencing.

New York's top court has affirmed dropping four claims against former chairman New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso, dealing a major setback to the legacy of former state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Two claims remain against Grasso's $187.5 million compensation package from the exchange, which was challenged by Spitzer as exorbitant for a not-for-profit organization.

In the decision affirming a lower court's ruling, Chief Judge Judith Kaye says the challenges were based on the size of the compensation package. But she says state law required more evidence to void such a payment.

Grasso argued that a private interest like NYSE should be free to set its own compensation.

A woman accused of booking clients for a prostitution ring has pleaded guilty in the federal probe that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Temeka Rachelle Lewis pleaded guilty Wednesday to promoting prostitution and money laundering. The 32-year-old is among four defendants in the case involving the Emperor's Club VIP call-girl ring.

Court papers say the FBI secretly recorded conversations between Lewis and Spitzer about a Feb. 13 tryst with a prostitute in Washington. The former governor is identified in the court papers as Client No. 9

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