‘The barrel was pointed right dead at my chest and my face,’ says Baltimore County officer at Korryn Gaines lawsuit trial

The first Baltimore County police officer who encountered Korryn Gaines two summers ago recalled in court Friday seeing her sitting cross-legged and pointing a shotgun at him — a move that set off the six-hour standoff that culminated in Baltimore County police fatally shooting the Randallstown woman. Testifying in a civil lawsuit brought by Gaines’ family, Officer Allen Griffin III said that when he saw Gaines’ shotgun, he immediately knew the situation was unsafe and that he needed to retreat. “The barrel was pointed right dead at my chest and my face,” said Griffin, a 30-year police veteran who specializes in serving warrants in the Wilkens precinct on the west side of the county. Griffin testified that he and Cpl. John Dowell went to Gaines’ Randallstown apartment on Aug. 1, 2016 to serve warrants on Gaines and her fiancé, Kareem Courtney. Gaines’ warrant was for failing to appear in court on traffic charges and Courtney’s warrant was related to an alleged assault. Griffin testified that he knocked on the apartment door several times. Eventually, he identified himself as a police officer. He and Dowell both said they heard noises inside, but no one answered. They dispatched an officer to get a key from the apartment complex management office and Griffin used it to open the door, but a security chain kept it from opening all the way. Griffin said he saw Gaines inside and recognized her as the woman wanted on the warrant. Griffin said he tried to shove the door open with his shoulder, but that didn’t work. Dowell then kicked the door in. Griffin testified that he went into the apartment and saw Gaines with a black shotgun “that she held right at me.” Choking up while recounting the incident, Griffin said he yelled to Dowell: “Gun! Gun! Gun!” and backed out of the apartment. Dowell, a 22-year veteran, testified that the officers took cover in the hallway and he tried talking to Continue Reading

Future of biotech company Streck remains entangled in the lawsuits of a divided family

A dispute over the control and possible sale of a family-owned La Vista business has erupted into six lawsuits stemming from conflicts between company founder Wayne Ryan and CEO Connie Ryan, his daughter, with tens of millions of dollars at stake. Also at stake are the future ownership of Streck Inc., a 366-employee maker of laboratory material such as blood testing supplies, and the relationships among members of a family generous in its support of Omaha-area schools, churches and medical research. The family conflicts became public in 2014 after months of rising tension between Wayne and Connie Ryan following the death of Eileen Krebs Ryan in March 2013. She was Wayne Ryan’s wife and the mother of Connie and the four other Ryan children. Connie Ryan wants Streck to acquire her father’s interest in the company, where he no longer works. He wants Streck sold to the highest bidder, possibly a Chicago investment firm. But it’s not just about the money, said his attorney, Richard Winter of Chicago. Wayne Ryan wants his legacy to be honored as the founder and main force behind Streck. “We think that Connie has forced him out, and her ultimate objective is to perpetrate a wealth transfer from her father to herself,” Winter said. “We’re trying to create some equity and ensure that Dr. Ryan gets the recognition in terms of reputation and financial reward ... that he deserves.” For her part, Constance “Connie” Ryan said in an interview, “I’m disappointed that we are where we are. I worked with my father for 39 years. This is not what I’d hoped for.” Selling the company is “not an option,” she said. “Streck has always and continues to recognize Dr. Ryan’s role in the formation and evolution of the company and the very significant contributions he has made to our success,” she said. “We continue to successfully defend our position in court, Continue Reading

New York judges file lawsuit for higher salaries

Judges looking for their first pay raises since 1999 filed a lawsuit yesterday to force the hand of the governor and the Legislature.Representatives from four judges' associations filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court, charging that Gov. Spitzer and the Legislature have held out for too long in granting a cost-of-living increase.The suit points out that New York judges are among the nation's lowest-paid, while working in one of the country's busiest court systems. According to the lawsuit, trial judges in New York state earn $10,000 to $21,000 less than judges in Alaska. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Donald Sterling’s wife claims hubby ‘very private about his gay life,’ V. Stiviano testifies at civil trial

Donald Sterling's wife worried about keeping the billionaire's alleged gay lifestyle a secret when she first got to know the younger woman she's now suing for $3.6 million, V. Stiviano testified Friday. Shelly Sterling pulled Stiviano aside at a Christmas party in 2011 to assess her "intentions" and stress how much the Clippers owner valued his reputation. "She mentioned to me Mr. Sterling was very private about his gay life and she wanted to keep it very confidential," Stiviano said under oath in Los Angeles. She then said Sterling's younger male friend Mo Fawaz regularly traveled with the real estate mogul and received more than a million dollars for his companionship. "Mo has be Mr. Sterling's very special friend for the past 20 years. Every single trip we took, Mo was with us," she testified Friday. "My client was basically a beard," Stiviano's lawyers said when asked about Fawaz outside court Friday. The statement echoed a filing he made in the case last year. Stiviano took the stand to defend herself from a civil court claim filed last year by Shelly Sterling. Donald Sterling's wife of more than 50 years sued Stiviano alleging the 32-year-old was a serial gold digger who used fraud to get $3.6 million worth of the couple's community property. Stiviano denied she ever had sex with Sterling. She testified he willingly gave her money from his personal property, not community property, and helped her buy a Spanish-style duplex, Ferrari, Bentley and Range Rover. She said they cared for each other deeply during the years she spent as his full-time confidante and personal advisor. They got so close, in fact, that Sterling allegedly encouraged her to adopt two boys, ages 10 and 11 years old, that met through the foster care system, Stiviano testified. She said Sterling went with her to court on several occasions to support the adoption process. "He was verifying employment for me and stating he was one source of income," she said. "He Continue Reading

Judge denies request for trial for fraud case to be moved to Brooklyn

CENTRAL ISLIP — A federal judge denied a request from an attorney representing a former race car driver accused of stealing millions of dollars from NHL players and other investors to move his trial to Brooklyn because a story that appeared in the Sunday Daily News may have prejudiced the jury pool in Suffolk County. Attorney Robert LaRusso objected to quotes in the story from John Kaiser, a former Suffolk County police officer who claims LaRusso's client and former Playboy driver Tommy Constantine and his co-defendant Phil Kenner bilked him and his family out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. LaRusso also complained that the Daily News reported that Constantine had changed his name from Tommy Hormovitis after pleading guilty to drug charges in the early 1990s in Illinois. U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco denied the motion shortly before jury selection began Monday at the Alphonse M. D'Amato United States Courthouse. Bianco said he would ask potential jurors if they had read the article. "I think anybody who has read this article should not be on the jury," Bianco said. The story reported that Kaiser, who will likely be called as a prosecution witness, became suspicious of Kenner and Constantine after reading stories about the alleged fraudsters' legal battles with the NHL players in the Daily News. Kaiser told the Daily News in 2013 that he wanted to bring the alleged con men to justice because he believed they had not only scammed him, but they had also ripped off the family members and friends he had convinced to invest with Kenner and Constantine. LaRusso argued that potential jurors could have been biased by the story out of respect and support for Suffolk County police. "We respectfully submit that the impact of this Daily News article, written on the eve of jury selection, raises the substantial likelihood that the jury pool has been tainted by the slanted presentation of the charges and, as important, by the inclusion of Continue Reading

Court rejects bogus lawsuit from fugitive who wanted 50% of Facebook’s fortune

An appeals court shot down an accused Facebook fraudster’s attempt to revive his case against Mark Zuckerberg Monday, slamming the fugitive techie as “an individual who has repeatedly demonstrated total disregard for our judicial system.” Paul Ceglia had appealed a ruling tossing his civil suit claiming 50% of the social media empire thanks to a 2003 contract he said he signed with Zuckerberg. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed a lower court’s ruling that the contract was a fraud, paving the way for Ceglia’s criminal trial scheduled to start in May. Last month, Ceglia dismantled his ankle monitor and made a run for it. He is still on the run. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Ex-NHLers finally get day in court as alleged bilkers of millions go to trial in fraud case

CENTRAL ISLIP — The real tragedy of the case of the missing hockey fortunes is the tax those vanished millions had already levied on the brains and bodies of the men who earned their living crashing through ice rinks from Russia to Quebec, from Sweden to Madison Square Garden. They were told their investments would grow in a series of real estate deals in Hawaii and Mexico -- the kind of sunny, exclusive spots that pro athletes dream of escaping to after the long, violent winters of pro hockey finally gave way to retirement. Instead, nearly 20 former and current NHL pros may have lost their savings in a dizzying financial scam that is the subject of a federal criminal trial starting tomorrow on Long Island. Exactly how many athletes’ nest eggs vanished is one of many facts to be determined at the Alphonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse once testimony begins. Jury selection starts Monday in the fraud case against a pair of mysterious playboys who pleaded not guilty in 2013 to nine counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges. Court documents indicate up to $30 million is at stake, some of it locked up in private jets, fancy homes and a storied Baja golf resort. The accused con men at the center of it all, Phil Kenner and Tommy Constantine, turned on each other long ago but remain co-defendants in an indictment that was revised just this week, more tightly focused for what could be a six-week trial. Jurors will hear prosecutors and FBI agents accuse Kenner and Constantine of diverting investor deposits for their own personal gain. The government says it has evidence that money was steered toward personal debts and pet projects like Kenner’s tequila company and, in Constantine’s case, to buy race cars and hire Playboy models to attend car races. Attorneys for both men say their clients are innocent. And there are indications that some of the hockey players may still be in the defendants’ Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: Man finally free after 6 years awaiting trial in Queens murder plans to sue city

He lost six years of his life and now he wants the city to pay for it. Terrel Banks was 20 years old when he was charged with murder, accused of gunning down Timothy Smith in Fresh Meadows, Queens. He maintained his innocence as he endured three mistrials, including one that ended in a hung jury. Banks, now 26, was finally released from prison in January. The charges were dropped last month and the murder remains unsolved. “I can’t get those years back,” Banks told the Daily News. “I can never make up that time.” Now a free man, Banks plans to file a civil suit against the city. “I feel that wasn’t legal what they did to me,” he said. Banks’ ordeal at Rikers Island began soon after he was arrested for the October 2008 shooting. I can’t get those years back. I can never make up that time. The case against him was shaky from the start but he was denied bail all those years. The prosecution’s star witness, who claimed she saw Banks pull the trigger, recanted before the first trial in 2010, but the Queens district attorney’s office pressed on. “Having the star witness coming and saying I didn’t do it from the beginning of my time incarcerated, and they still held me,” Banks said. “Why did I get held for an extra 4 1/2?” Even though the key witness recanted, a judge allowed prosecutors to use her grand jury testimony. The third and final trial ended in a hung jury in March 2014. After all that, Banks was offered a plea deal. He’d have to plead guilty to gun possession in exchange for prosecutors dropping the murder charge. He refused. “Six years in jail awaiting trial, including the recantation of a witness? We believe that we have basis for a civil rights lawsuit,” Banks’ attorney Jorge Santos said. The Queens district attorney’s office didn’t offer any Continue Reading

Kanye West settles lawsuit by paparazzo who accused rapper of assault, seals deal with handshake

Kanye West flashed a big smile to settle a paparazzo's lawsuit and avoid trial. The musician and designer skirted the courtroom battle — which had been set to start next week — by reaching a private pact with celebrity photographer Daniel Ramos. The settlement included an in-person apology and friendly photo op sealed with a handshake, Ramos' lawyer Gloria Allred announced Tuesday. The lawyer declined to give any financial terms of the deal. "We cannot discuss the details of the settlement, except to say that one important aspect of it was an apology by Kanye West to our client," Allred said. "We believe that this case sent an important message," she said. "Celebrities are not above the law, and they have no right to physically attack someone simply because they were asked a question." That July 2013 physical altercation began when West lost his cool with Ramos outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX airport. Ramos and other photographers were gathered out on a sidewalk waiting to snap globetrotting celebs when West exited the terminal to a flurry of questions. "Kanye, can we talk to you, Kanye? ... What's going on? Why can't we talk to you? I mean why?" Ramos asked from about 10 feet away, according to Allred. The shutterbug was inquiring because a week earlier, West shouted at a different photographer that he didn't want any paparazzi speaking to him or "anybody" he knew. West stopped walking, put his bag down and suddenly attacked Ramos "without provocation," Allred said. Ramos held onto his camera as West tried to wrestle it away. He fell down on his knees on the paved sidewalk with enough force that he sustained injuries to his right hip and was in "great pain," Allred said. Ramos flagged down a passing officer and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment, a police source previously told the Daily News. The photographer filed his civil lawsuit in August 2013 Continue Reading

Convicted ax murderer’s lawsuit over Lifetime movie chopped by New York judge

A New York judge has whacked a notorious ax murderer's lawsuit over a Lifetime movie about his case. Christopher Porco claimed "Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story" wrongfully appropriated his "name, likeness and personality for purposes of profit," offending his sense of right and wrong. Porco, 31, is serving 46 years to life in prison for killing his court clerk father and trying to kill his mother with a firefighter's ax in their Delmar home back in 2004. The mom, Joan Porco, survived the gruesome attack, but was disfigured and lost one of her eyes. Cops said she initially identified her son as her attacker, but she later recanted and maintained he was innocent during his sensational 2006 trial. He was convicted anyway based on other evidence, including prosecutors showing he'd lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murder. Acting as his own lawyer, the handsome ladies' man filed suit against Lifetime seeking unspecified money damages for the "unauthorized" use of his likeness. In a ruling last week, Clinton County Supreme Court Justice Robert Muller tossed the suit, finding the Lifetime flick was protected by the "newsworthiness exception." Porco "himself admits in the opening paragraphs of the complaint that the trial was covered extensively by the media," Muller wrote. "The record reveals coverage not only at the local level, but nationally as well." Muller made headlines with his handling of the case in 2013, when he signed off on Porco's emergency request to stop the movie from being aired. That ruling was later reversed on appeal, and Lifetime aired the flick, advertising it as the movie "Chris Porco doesn't want you to see." Porco is eligible for parole in 2052. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading