Queens teacher Melissa Weber denies after-school sexual affair with teen; tells cops he groped her

A Queens teacher charged with having sex with a 14-year-old student denied it to cops and claimed he was the aggressor - who grabbed her rear end a few times."The only thing I did wrong was not reporting it," Melissa Weber, 27, told police when she was questioned, according to a statement released at her arraignment Friday. Prosecutors tell a far different story. They say Weber had sex with the underage boy seven times in her second-floor classroom at Middle School 8 in Jamaica. The strawberry blond educator shook her head as she was hit with seven counts of statutory rape, 14 counts of sexual abuse and a charge of endangering the welfare of a child. A judge in Queens Criminal Court ordered her to stay away from the student and jailed her in lieu of $100,000 bail. Defense lawyer Donald Vogelman said the bail was excessive and that Weber's family probably couldn't afford to spring her. "My client is holding up as best as can be expected, but I don't think she belongs in jail," Vogelman said, adding that the teacher has no previous criminal record. Weber, a social studies teacher, is accused of carrying on with the boy from April 13 to May 14, meeting as often as twice a week after 3 p.m. The alleged trysts came to light this week when the teen's mom - a PTA member - was tipped off by a school insider. She checked her son's phone and found hundreds of around-the-clock calls and messages from Weber - including a final text in which the teacher told the boy, "Erase your phone." Weber, who has been a teacher since 2007, lives in West Babylon, L.I., where neighbors were shocked by the allegations of cradle robbing. "Why would you do that to a child? There's enough problems in the world," said neighbor Debbie Arpino, 56. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Little miss social sniper

THE SPARE WIFE by Alex Witchel, Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95In the Manhattan jungle, it takes an urban anthropologist like Alex Witchel to explain the mysterious customs and rituals of its social tribes. This she does in her second novel, "The Spare Wife."Witchel, who has also chronicled the lives of the Other Half for The New York Times, puts into play a particularly pernicious career woman who targets aging socialites with tenuous holds on their rich and powerful husbands. Babette Steele, a beautiful editorial assistant at a trendy magazine with a hankering to make a bold-faced name for herself, connives her way into a private dinner party at the Park Avenue home of a soon-to-be-dumped wife of a mega-rich financier. There, Babette meets "tout New York," including the beautiful Ponce Morris, a wealthy widow revered as "the Spare Wife" because, in the highest tiers of society, everyone knows she hates sex, has money - and therefore poses no threat to the marital status quo. Babette, however, learns by accident that Ponce's passions run deeper than being a charming dinner partner or social mentor to dazed and confused divorcees. Hearing opportunity knocking, Babette gets to work on a career-making exposé of Ponce's affair with a very prominent and very married fertility doctor. What's fun about "The Spare Wife" isn't Babette's diabolical moves to get inside Ponce's world - or the pants of every rich and powerful married man in New York City - but Witchel's depiction of the laws of this particular jungle, which is populated by lusty billionaires, once-famous authors, media moguls, wanna-bes and has-beens. And as it develops in Witchel's book, women are the true Masters of the Universe. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Veterans Affairs staffer ‘counseled’ for no-stress-disorder e-mail

WASHINGTON - Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake Thursday dressed down a staffer who advised blocking vets from receiving posttraumatic stress disorder treatment in order to save money."The employee has been counseled and is extremely apologetic," said Peake, a doctor and Silver Star veteran of the Vietnam War. Peake put out the statement after the VoteVets.org advocacy group and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ferreted out an e-mail by the unidentified staffer to VA psychologists, social workers and a psychiatrist. "Given that we have more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," the e-mail said. "Additionally, we don't ... have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," the e-mail added. Jon Soltz, an Army Iraq war vet and head of VoteVets.org, said, "Many veterans believe that the government just doesn't want to pay out the disability that comes along with a PTSD diagnosis, and this revelation will not allay their concerns." A recent RAND report said that as many as 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets could be suffering major depression, or posttraumatic stress. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

If NFL players, owners and executives can have dialogue on social issues, can’t we all?

NEW YORK — Anquan Boldin is as strong a messenger as anyone when it comes to understanding the issues that fuel the protests by NFL players that have lit up America’s favorite sport.Two years ago, Boldin’s cousin, Corey Jones, 31, was slain on the side of a highway by a plainclothes police officer in the wee hours of the morning while waiting for a tow truck.In August, Boldin, one of the gutsiest wide receivers and most respected locker room leaders you’ll ever meet, abruptly retired after 14 seasons. On the heels of the deadly white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., he pledged to quit football and pick up the cause for social justice.Tuesday, he joined 12 active players in a meeting at NFL headquarters with Commissioner Roger Goodell, 11 team owners and other top officials from the league and players union. They discussed how the league could support the players in dealing with the social issues – the protest movement was originally ignited last year by Colin Kaepernick – that remain front and center on the grand stage of the NFL. More: NFL, players plan further talks on social issues after 'productive' meeting More: Colin Kaepernick not at owners meetings because he wasn't invited More: NFL hot seat rankings: Hue Jackson's winless Browns getting even worse “We don’t think these are just players’ issues,” Boldin told USA TODAY Sports as he strolled down Lexington Avenue after the three-hour meeting. “They are American issues, and we want to see it portrayed that way.”If you’re thinking that Goodell laid down the law and demanded that players must stand for the national anthem, think again. There’s no new policy, no threats like the one that came from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who maintains that he won’t play any players who don’t stand during The Star-Spangled Banner. Sure, Goodell stated in a memo last week that he Continue Reading

NFL, players plan further talks on social issues after ‘productive’ meeting

NEW YORK –  Progress but no resolution. That was the outcome Tuesday when the NFL hosted a summit of players, franchise owners and league and union executives to discuss the ongoing push for social justice issues and the protests players have taken to spread awareness for those causes. Amid controversy regarding the future of the protests, many involved said they found the discussion useful."I'm not sure we're close to a resolution, but conversations are ongoing," said Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. "It went from just phone calls to obviously, this is the first time meeting, so I don't think we can come up with a whole plan and solutions in two hours. But we're happy that these things are happening, and we look forward to the opportunity to be able to put a good plan together."NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league did not seek a commitment from players to stand for the anthem."We spent today talking about the issues that players have been trying to bring attention to — issues to make our communities better," Goodell said. "I think we all agree that there's nothing more important than trying to give back to our communities and make them better."Goodell also unveiled a plan to address social issues, Jenkins said, though he declined to offer specific details. Jenkins added that the meeting was not dominated by the topic of protests.San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid said that a subsequent meeting had been "tentatively scheduled" within the next couple weeks.“They were constructive talks,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said after the meeting. “We heard what (the players) had to say, and they heard what (the owners) had to say.”The meeting started at 10 a.m. ET inside NFL headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and lasted approximately three hours and 38 minutes. “Today owners and players had a productive meeting focused on how we can work Continue Reading


All is not apparently well in the house of Tory Burch. The socialite-turned-fashion designer is not onlycoping with the breakup of her marriage to millionaire venture capitalist Christopher Burch, but - judging by his end of an overheard phone call - the Tory Burch clothing line could be in trouble. Late Saturday afternoon, a Lowdown spy spotted Christopher in the middle of the Tory Burch boutique on the fifth floor of Bergdorf Goodman loudly ­complaining into his cell phone: "The s-'s not selling! What do we do? " Agitated, he pulled various jackets off one of the racks, saying, "This isn't selling, that isn't selling ... " Christopher, in an E-mail to Lowdown, denied the account. "I have absolutely no idea who would have told you that. I never said it! It is not true! The business is booming. " But he has more than a passing interest in the clothing sales. He put up his own money to launch the label and remains the company's co-chairman. Tory Burch's sportswear fashions debuted to great fanfare in February 2004. Oprah Winfrey - during a segment that spotlighted the brand - proclaimed the label a personal favorite and dubbed the designer "the next big thing. " Tory was splashed in such glossies as Vogue, which featured the 39-year-old blond in the family's 9,000-square-foot apartment at the Pierre Hotel. And her socialite pals have made sure to get themselves photographed wearing her clothes. Along with four Tory Burch stores, the clothes are also sold in Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf's. But a visit yesterday to the Saks and Nieman Marcus Web sites showed many items on sale at a substantial discount. The silver-sequined lining might be that the Burch separation at least sounds cordial. Toward the end of his phone call, Christopher exclaimed, "Say hi to Tory! " Tory Burch didn't respond yesterday to detailed messages left with two different spokeswomen. A concerted effort to aid '60s rocker First the concert, now the Continue Reading

B.B. King’s family loses bid for control of guitarist’s affairs from longtime manager

LAS VEGAS — Blues legend B.B. King — his health failing at age 89 — is in the middle of a tug of war between some of his children and his longtime manager. Three of King’s 11 surviving children appeared in a Las Vegas courtroom Thursday in a bid to take control of their father’s affairs. Two said they suspect the musician’s manager of stealing his money and neglecting his medical care. All three complained they were blocked from seeing him in home hospice care. But a judge tossed the dispute out of court, saying two investigations found no evidence King was being abused and that King’s longtime business manager, Laverne Toney, should remain in legal control of his affairs. RELATED: REPORTS THAT B.B. KING IS IN HOSPICE CARE Toney and King’s lead attorney, Brent Bryson, deny the theft allegations. They say King’s children — including Karen Williams, Patty King, Rita Washington — can schedule visits as always. King, who has diabetes, did not attend the court hearing. Clark County Family Court Hearing Master Jon Norheim said police and social services investigations in October and April uncovered no reason to take power of attorney from Toney. “I don’t have anything here that says (King) lacks capacity,” Norheim said. “He has some serious health issues. But he has counsel. If he feels like he’s being taken advantage of, he has remedies.” Norheim said he could not consider daughter Karen Williams’ petition to take over as King’s guardian until all of King’s children and grandchildren are legally notified. The ruling doesn’t prevent King’s children from returning to court to press their claim once that happens. “We lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war,” Karen Williams vowed. She and a family-nominated guardian, Continue Reading

Flawed Social Security data say 6.5 million Americans are older than 112 years

WASHINGTON  — Americans are getting older, but not this old: Social Security records show that 6.5 million people in the U.S. have reached the ripe old age of 112. In reality, only few could possibly be alive. As of last fall, there were only 42 people known to be that old in the entire world. But Social Security does not have death records for millions of these people, with the oldest born in 1869, according to a report by the agency's inspector general. Only 13 of the people are still getting Social Security benefits, the report said. But for others, their Social Security numbers are still active, so a number could be used to report wages, open bank accounts, obtain credit cards or claim fraudulent tax refunds. "That is a real problem," said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "When you have a fake Social Security number, that's what allows you to fraudulently do all kinds things, claim things like the earned income tax credit or other tax benefits." Johnson is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which plans a hearing Monday on problems with death records maintained by the Social Security Administration. The agency said it is working to improve the accuracy of its death records. But it would be costly and time-consuming to update 6.5 million files that were generated decades ago, when the agency used paper records, said Sean Brune, a senior adviser to the agency's deputy commissioner for budget, finance, quality and management. "The records in this review are extremely old, decades-old, and unreliable," Brune said. The internal watchdog's report does not document any fraudulent or improper payments to people using these Social Security numbers. But it raises red flags that it could be happening. For example, nearly 67,000 of the Social Security numbers were used to report more than $3 billion in wages, tips and self-employment income from 2006 to 2011, according to the report. One Social Continue Reading

Anna Wintour’s Met gala looks to be a crowded affair with Obama fund-raiser nearby

President Obama will be just three blocks from the upcoming Met Ball while it’s in full swing Monday, sources tell [email protected] That ought to cause the Upper East Side to nearly shut down for hours, and give Vogue editor and gala chair Anna Wintour a real headache. The POTUS is set to attend a private fund-raiser for the Democratic party at the Upper East Side home of multimillionaire Loida Nicolas-Lewis the very same night as the massive fashion party, a source tells us. Sources say security measures are already in full swing, with the Secret Service already staking out the area because Wintour’s ball, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will be happening nearby. “Traffic will be at a standstill for the day,” a second source says. Obama’s security detail has also already vetted everyone attending the fund-raiser, and the list of attendees has now been closed. The cocktail party is being thrown by Loida’s daughter, Leslie Lewis Sword, a Harvard grad who also has an MFA in acting from UCLA School of Theater Film and Television. She’s the daughter of Reginald F. Lewis, who was the owner and CEO of European snack company Beatrice Foods. He was the first black American to own a billion-dollar company. When he died of a brain tumor in 1993, he left her a multimillionaire. “I don’t think she socializes with Obama, or knows him very well. She’s just a liberal Democrat raising money for the party,” one source says. We’re told her pal Obama “may swing by” Wintour’s nearby fashion gala after the fund-raiser, which starts at 5 p.m. The museum is on Fifth Ave. between 80th and 84th Sts. Obama will be steps away, at Fifth and 85th. The Gossip Table - Celebrity Gossip - TV Shows - Full Episode Video - Reality TV Shows The source explains that both events happening within a area Continue Reading

Veterans Affairs failed to give World War II vets medical benefits for participating in mustard gas experiments: investigation

The U.S. military failed to compensate thousands of soldiers who were secretly exposed to mustard gas during its most toxic experiments as promised, according to an NPR investigation. Exposure to the sulphur mustards left some gas masked participants like Charlie Cavell, then 19 years old, blistered and burned while trapped inside heated gas chambers during World War II. He was given two weeks vacation for spending one week at the Naval Research Laboratory, a week that has left him traumatized for life. “We weren't told what it was until we got into the process of actually being in that room,” Cavell told NPR. “There was no door ... doorknobs, doorknobs. And that's what I have problems with today. I go to a locked door, I panic sometimes to try to get out.” He said researchers “put the fear of God in just a bunch of young kids” by threatening to dishonorably discharge the participants if they went public with the experiments. The lab tests were declassified in 1991 prompting Veteran’s Affairs to pledge benefits for 4,000 soldiers who were exposed to the worst of the mustard gas research if they were diagnosed with the following illnesses: skin cancer, leukemia, emphysema and asthma. Cavell tried for several years to obtain those benefits, but he was unable to prove that he participated in what was a highly classified project at the time. It wasn’t until NPR examined the turmoiled government agency — slammed even by President Obama for its staggering waiting lists — that Cavell finally had his benefits approved. The VA claims it found only 610 veterans that participated in the tests, citing a lack of records that included addresses and social security numbers, NPR reported. Ads in military magazines proved useless as well. NPR’s report suggests the VA didn’t try to find the veterans. Researchers found double what the VA did in less than Continue Reading