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Judge declares mistrial in case of Philly mob boss who reportedly greeted juror by name

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A mistrial has been declared in the racketeering trial of a notorious Philadelphia mob boss who was reported to have greeted a juror by name while surrounded by members of his “crew” outside a courtroom in Manhattan earlier this month.

Jurors at the trial of Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino told U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in a series of five notes Thursday they were hopelessly deadlocked after nearly four days of deliberations.

“Thank God for the jury,” a subdued Merlino told reporters afterward. He declined further comment.

Merlino, after the jury was picked, bizarrely predicted his trial would end in a “deadlock win” for him and offered what turned out to be a winning tip on the Super Bowl: “Oh, and bet the Eagles.”

A female juror told the judge in early February that she was waiting for an elevator in the courthouse following the end of testimony on Feb. 7 when Merlino approached her, according to court records viewed by the New York Post.

The juror said Merlino was “not close, but, like, he was on that side, on the opposite side over there, before you get to the exit, and he just said, ‘Hi, Sylvia,’ and I just turned my head, like, ‘Some nerve.’

She added: “There was some people. I guess his crew. I’m saying ‘crew’ because I don’t know what else to say, his crew that was all over that side, I guess waiting for somebody to come out or something.”

There was no word from the government Thursday on whether it would seek another trial, the Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors had alleged that instead of retiring, Merlino muscled his way into gambling and health insurance schemes run by crime families on the East Coast. He used his standing as a feared figure in the Mafia to demand protection payments from bookies and other underlings running a scheme to collect thousands of dollars of insurance claims by bribing doctors to write phony pain cream prescriptions for people who had no ailments, prosecutors said.

“Being with Merlino did not come for free,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Schorr said during closing arguments. “You pay tribute.”

Defense attorney Edwin Jacob countered by telling jurors that they were being misled by “compromised” turncoat mobsters who testified against Merlino, including one who made hundreds of hours of secret recordings of him.

“Have you heard anybody say Joseph Merlino is the boss of the Philadelphia mob?” Jacobs asked, referring to tapes played for the jury. “The answer is obvious — not a peep that he’s the boss of [the] Philadelphia mob.”

But prosecutors argued the tapes showed Merlino had full knowledge of the frauds. In one conversation played for the jury about bribing doctors, he is heard saying, “We do the right thing, make 20,000.” In another, he frets about “stool pigeons.”

Merlino, 55, once controlled the remnants of a Philadelphia organized crime family that was decimated by a bloody civil war in the 1980s and 1990s. Federal authorities said he was frequently targeted by murder plots after rivals put a $500,000 murder contract on his head.

In 2001, a jury acquitted Merlino and six co-defendants of three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder that could have put him behind bars for life. He was convicted of lesser racketeering charges and served 12 years in prison.

Merlino claimed he retired from the mob for good and started a new life by running an upscale Italian restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida. At the time of the alleged conspiracy, he was a gambling addict who took money from a cooperator because he was always broke, his lawyer said.

There also was testimony from government witnesses, heard by his wife in the audience, that he drank heavily and that he had an affair with a pharmaceutical saleswoman.

After the testimony about the fling, Merlino approached a New York Post reporter outside court and told him, “Don’t put the girl in” a story, the tabloid reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Climate change: 2020 was the warmest year on record in Europe, study finds | Climate News

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2020 was the warmest year on record in Europe, a major climate study has found.

Greenhouse gases are at their highest levels in 18 years, the European State of the Climate report said.

Concentrations of CO2 and CH4 rose by 0.6% and nearly 0.8% respectively, putting them at their highest annual levels since at least 2003 when satellite observations started.

2020 saw the warmest year, winter, and autumn on record for Europe. Pic: Copernicus Climate Change Service
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2020 saw the warmest year, winter, and autumn on record for Europe. Pic: Copernicus Climate Change Service

Not only was 2020 one of the three warmest years on record across the world, but the last six years were the warmest six on record.

Europe’s annual temperature in 2020 was the highest on record – at least 0.4C (0.72F) warmer than the next five warmest years, which were all in the last decade.

Last year saw the largest number of sunshine hours in Europe since satellite records began in 1983.

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Winter, which was 3.4C (5.76F) above average, was the warmest on record and the same was true of autumn.

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Snow cover and sea ice levels were affected in northeastern Europe, where it was especially warm, researchers from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.

Several heatwaves occurred affecting different regions each month, but they were not as intense, widespread, or long-lived as others of recent years.

Globally, 2020 was one of three warmest years on record, with the last six years being the warmest six on record. Pic: Copernicus Climate Change Service
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Globally, 2020 was one of three warmest years on record, with the last six years being the warmest six on record. Pic: Copernicus Climate Change Service

Parts of northwestern and northeastern Europe saw a “remarkable transition… from a wet winter to a dry spring, affecting river discharge, soil moisture conditions and vegetation growth”, the report added.

Several heavy rainfall events brought record rainfall and led to above-average river discharge across much of western Europe, in turn causing flooding in some regions.

Storm Alex, in early October, broke one-day rainfall records in the UK, northwestern France and in the southern Alps.

Devastating flooding was seen in some regions of western Europe.

Greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise and are at their highest annual levels since at least 2003. Pic: Copernicus Climate Change Service
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Greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise and are at their highest annual levels since at least 2003. Pic: Copernicus Climate Change Service

It was the second warmest year on record for the Arctic as a whole and the warmest in Arctic Siberia, where record-breaking wildfires occurred.

But in March, a polar vortex caused depletion in the Arctic’s ozone.

Northern Siberia and adjacent parts of the Arctic experienced the largest above average annual temperatures, which reached 6C (10.8F) above average.

Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S, said: “It is more important than ever that we use the available information to act, to mitigate and adapt to climate change and accelerate our efforts to reduce future risks.”

Matthias Petschke, from the European Commission, said: “Achieving a climate neutral economy requires the full mobilisation of society, governments and industry.”

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The Daily Climate Show

Sky News broadcasts the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

Hosted by Anna Jones, The Daily Climate Show is following Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.

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‘Pervasive racism’ blamed for unequal treatment of black and Asian war casualties | UK News

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Up to 350,000 predominantly black and Asian service personnel have not been formally remembered in the same way as their white comrades.

An investigation has blamed “pervasive racism” for the failure to properly commemorate at least 116,000 but up to 350,000 people who died fighting for the British Empire.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has apologised and vowed to act immediately to correct the situation.

The report, obtained by the PA news agency and due to be published in full later today, found that the casualties – mainly from the First World War – were “not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all”.

Most of them were commemorated by memorials that did not carry their names.

An estimated 45,000 to 54,000 Asian and African casualties were also “commemorated unequally”.

This meant some were commemorated collectively on memorials – unlike those in Europe – and others who were missing were only recorded in registers, rather than on stone.

The job of commemorating the war dead belongs to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, originally named the Imperial War Graves Commission.

The report was compiled by a special committee, established by the CWGC in 2019 after a critical documentary about the issue.

According to the report, the failure to properly commemorate the individuals was “influenced by a scarcity of information, errors inherited from other organisations and the opinions of colonial administrators”.

“Underpinning all these decisions, however, were the entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes,” it added.

The report gave the example of a 1923 communication between FG Guggisberg, the governor of what is now Ghana, and the commission’s Arthur Browne.

The governor had said “the average native of the Gold Coast would not understand or appreciate a headstone,” as he argued for collective memorials.

Mr Browne’s response showed “what he may have considered foresight, but one that was explicitly framed by contemporary racial prejudice”, according to the report.

He had said: “In perhaps two or three hundred years’ time, when the native population had reached a higher stage of civilisation, they might then be glad to see that headstones had been erected on the native graves and that the native soldiers had received precisely the same treatment as their white comrades.”

In its response to the report, the CWGC said it “acknowledges that the commission failed to fully carry out its responsibilities at the time and accepts the findings and failings identified in this report and we apologise unreservedly for them”.

CWGC director general Claire Horton said: “The events of a century ago were wrong then and are wrong now.

“We recognise the wrongs of the past and are deeply sorry and will be acting immediately to correct them.”

David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said: “No apology can ever make up for the indignity suffered by the unremembered.

“However, this apology does offer the opportunity for us as a nation to work through this ugly part of our history – and properly pay our respects to every soldier who has sacrificed their life for us.”

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COVID-19: India sets record for new coronavirus cases in a single day | World News

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India has reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period – the biggest one-day total seen anywhere in the world since the pandemic began.

The country’s health ministry said there had been 314,835 new cases on Thursday, a number that passes the previous record – 297,430 in the US in January.

The previous day, India had reported 295,041 new COVID-19 cases.

India’s number of deaths rose by 2,104 to reach a total of 184,657.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier this week that India was facing a coronavirus “storm” which was overwhelming its health system.

Hospitals are facing a severe shortage of beds and oxygen, with some private hospitals in Delhi warning they have less than two hours’ supply of the gas.

People have crowded into refilling facilities, trying to refill empty oxygen cylinders for relatives in hospital.

At least 22 patients in western India died on Wednesday when the oxygen supply to their ventilators ran out due to a leak.

There have even been instances of looting oxygen tankers.

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Mr Modi has been criticised for allowing big gatherings such as weddings and festivals where crowds can mix in confined spaces.

He has also addressed packed political rallies for local elections, speaking to millions of people.

Despite the fact that hospitals are struggling, Mr Modi said earlier this week that state governments should not impose a harsh lockdown.

Instead, he suggested micro-containment zones in an effort to avoid damaging the economy.

But the state of Maharashtra has strengthened its restrictions until at least the beginning of May.

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Patients dies after oxygen tank leaks

All offices – except those providing essential services – must operate with no more than 15% of their staff.

Travel by private vehicle is only allowed for medical emergencies.

And only medical workers and government employees can ride on the trains.

So far, India has administered nearly 130 million doses of the vaccine but this is still a small effort when compared with its population of 1.35 billion.

Currently, only frontline workers and those aged above 45 are eligible but all adults are expected to be allowed a dose from May.

There could be delays ahead, with the country’s Serum Institute warning that it will not be able to reach 100 million doses per month until July, compared with its previous forecast of late May.

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