Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pirates acquire three in deals with KC, Boston

In anticipation of next week's Winter Meetings, and possibly of Friday's deadline to make contract offers to arbitration-eligible players, the Pirates on Wednesday reshuffled their 40-man roster.  The club designated for assignment infielders Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro, needing their spots for two players acquired from Kansas City in trade: First baseman Clint Robinson and right-hander Vin Mazzaro, in exchange for young pitching prospects Luis Rico and Luis Santos. In another transaction, Pittsburgh acquired right-hander Zach Stewart from Boston for a player to be named later. All three newcomers have limited Major League experience, the least by the most intriguing of them: Robinson, a strapping 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefty swinger who had a four at-bat big league debut last summer. Three of those at-bats came in PNC Park, during an Interleague series. Robinson, 27, immediately looms as an alternative to two arbitration-eligible first basemen on the roster, Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones. Robinson also slides in as a replacement for Hague, who was given a fair shot to make an impression last season (with a three-week run as the primary first baseman), but could hit only .229, with little extra-base pop. At Triple-A Omaha last season, Robinson batted .292 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs. Perhaps most impressive for a guy with his big swing: He had more walks (79) than strikeouts (65) in 570 plate appearances. Mazzaro, 26, has a 15-21 record with an ERA of 5.22 in four seasons split between the A's, who'd drafted him in the third round in 2005, and the Royals. His 66 big league games include 45 starts.Neither Rico, 19, nor Santos, 21, has yet to pitch domestically. Both had been in the Pirates organization for two years, pitching last summer in the Dominican summer league.
Stewart, 26, has been on the move since being the Reds' third-round choice in the 2008 Draft. This is already the fourth trade in which he has been involved, having gone from the Reds to the Blue Jays to the White Sox to the Red Sox. The veterans he has exacted in those moves -- Scott Rolen, Edwin Jackson, Kevin Youkilis -- hint of Stewart's potential.

'Killer' nanny pleads not guilty in hospital to child stab deaths; wants press barred from hospital

Now she wants sympathy.

In a cowardly plea for special treatment, accused child-slaughterer Yoselyn Ortega begged a judge to bar the press from her hospital bed arraignment today -- claiming through her lawyer that she's too visibly sick, too "pathetic" to be seen.

"It is a pathetic woman who lies here," public assistance defense lawyer, Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg, told a Manhattan judge as Ortega lay at her side, handcuffed to her bed at New York-Presbyterian hospital.

"My client does not wish to have the press in here," the lawyer said, in asking unsuccessfully for Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone to bar a reporter from watching as Ortega pleaded not guilty to the bathtub slashing deaths of two young Upper West Side children under her care.

Lucia and Leo Krim perished in the brutal, Oct. 25 slashing. The girl was 6 years old; the boy was 2.

They were found bleeding to death in the bathtub of their W. 75th Street apartment by their mother, Marina Krim, upon her returning home with the third child, Nessie, 3. Ortega was still in the apartment, and had slashed her own self in the throat, authorities said.

"She's lying in a hospital bed. She has a neck brace, and her hand that you can see is shaking," the lawyer argued today.

"She is in a very debilitated condition. She has tubes running out of her torso. She has a right to privacy."

The lawyer added, "You have a profoundly injured, severely injured individual… you are chilling her right to be free from being observed in this condition."

In allowing the proceeding to be covered, the judge said he recognized that sometimes "there are things that become uncomfortable with respect to the press." He added, "That is the cost that we must bear in connection with the civil liberties."

The judge ordered Ortega to undergo a psychiatric exam to determine if she is mentally fit to proceed, and kept her on suicide watch.

Ortega appeared alert but did not speak at the ten-minute proceeding, during which she lay under a white blanket, her hair in a blue hair net. Her lawyer entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

The purpose of the hearing was to formally inform Ortega that she's been hit with the top homicide charge in the books -- murder in the first degree, reserved for slayings of judges and cops, serial killings, killings deemed cruel and wanton, or, as in Ortega's case, in which there were multiple victims.

The nanny had been suffering mental and financial difficulties, and told cops that she resented the Krim family for asking her to do an extra five hours a week of housework.

The judge set Jan. 16 as her next court date.

With AP

The Phantom of the Opera Review

By writer/reporter Brandon Julien
Midtown- The Phantom of the Opera is Broadway’s longest running show, and it had the honor of being the first Broadway show I’ve ever seen.
The central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine DaaƩ, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius. From what I saw, this is where the title comes into play.

In the beginning (Act I), we begin our journey in the middle of an auction, which seems causal (to me) to begin a show. Lot 666 is a shattered chandelier that, the auctioneer says, has a connection to "the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera…a mystery never fully explained." As the chandelier is uncovered, it lights up and slowly rises over the audience, and that scared me half to death.
And trust me, the surprises didn’t end there. Throughout the show, the special effects almost had my heart racing and at the edge of my seat. The only other time I had seen stuff like this was at a movie theater, so this was very impressive in my standards.

Marini Raab, who plays Christine DaaĆ© in this play (Samantha Hill plays her in the Monday and Thursday evening performances), honestly has a great singing voice. During the singing scenes (making this a Broadway show/musical), her voice has such clarity, precision, and emotion, I honestly thought like I was going to cry. On another point, Hugh Panaro, who plays the Phantom of the Opera, was magnificent in scaring the audience with the special effects, and also at catching the audience off guard. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. In Act 2, Scene 3, when most of the characters are on stage, one of them reads a piece of paper that looks like a note. And as they read the note, we can hear the Phantom’s voice, but he’s not on the stage. That honestly had me a little bit creeped out.
But what this play does good, and better than any other book or movie I know is switching from laughing to romantic to dramatic from scene to scene.

My recommendation: This is a Broadway show worth seeing. This show makes you laugh, makes you cry, and it makes you hold on to the edge of your seat asking for more. And with the action, the romance, the drama, and the beautiful singing, it is definitely worth the 2+ hours.

Out of a possible 10, The Phantom of the Opera gets a 9.5.
Reporting from Midtown, I’m Brandon Julien.

Angels, Madson finalize one-year contract

Ryan Madson, a product of Moreno Valley, Calif., can boast about it now: Growing up, he was an Angels fan.  

Madson attended games at Angel Stadium as a kid, met Troy Percival, looked up to Wally Joyner -- "In my dream," he said, "I was a first baseman, but I threw too hard" -- and envisioned a time when he'd actually get to play for them.

But this was a negotiation; Madson had to be subtle about that this winter. "I was a little concerned with letting Jerry [Dipoto] know about wanting to play for Anaheim," Madson said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, shortly after the Angels' general manager signed the potential closer to a one-year, incentive-laden contract. "I'm glad that he picked that up and didn't take advantage of it."

Perhaps Dipoto didn't take advantage of it, but he did net quite the bargain. After an entire season spoiled by Tommy John surgery, the Angels were able to get Madson -- one of baseball's top late-inning relievers with the Phillies -- for a $3.5 million base salary and up to $3.5 million more in incentives. Madson -- a client of tough-negotiating agent Scott Boras, no less -- can rake in up to $2.5 million for time spent on the roster and up to $1 million based on games finished.

Madson is confident he can be ready by Opening Day, and he believes he'll finish a lot of games for the Angels.

"As long as my arm is 100 percent and I feel like I can throw the ball how I'm capable of, then I expect to have the [closer's] role," Madson said. "I don't think anything's going to be given to me, but I'm definitely going to come to Spring Training and earn the job and show them that I'm healthy in that way, and I think I should have it."

The Angels have quite a familiarity with Madson. The 32-year-old right-hander, who lives in Temecula, Calif., had his Tommy John surgery performed by Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum and rehabbed in Anaheim under the watch of team doctors this past season.

Madson, nearly eight months removed from the procedure, is currently doing 100 to 110 throws from 90 to 100 feet, making him "very confident" that he'll be "ready to go at the beginning of the season."

"I'm way ahead of where I thought I'd be at this point," he said, "and I've actually had to back down a little bit."

In a relievers' market where Jeremy Affeldt ($18 million with the Giants), Brandon League ($22.5 million with the Dodgers) and Jonathan Broxton ($21 million with the Reds) got lucrative three-year contracts, the Madson deal is essentially low-risk, high-reward -- the type that leaves the Angels with payroll flexibility to fill at least two holes in the rotation, perhaps keeping them alive on Zack Greinke.

But it's only a bargain if Madson reverts back to form after a lost 2012 in Cincinnati, taking control of the ninth inning and creating the kind of domino effect that will help the Angels return to the playoffs by improving on an American League-leading 47 saves the last two years.

Without going into specifics, Dipoto said he isn't done addressing the bullpen "by any stretch," a sentiment that may hinge on how the starting pitching market plays out. With Madson joining the likes of Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs, though, he can breathe a whole lot easier.

"Our ability to get the last nine outs just got a lot better," Dipoto said. "If Ryan Madson is throwing the ball like he has over the course of time in the big leagues, and particularly the last five years before Tommy John, he's one of the premier relievers in the game."

The 6-foot-6 Madson solidified a late-inning role with the Phillies from 2008-11, using a mid-90s fastball and a devastating changeup to compile a 2.86 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, while averaging 68 innings, 68 strikeouts and 18 walks per season. He became the full-time closer in 2011, posting a 2.37 ERA, going 32-for-34 in saves and giving up only two home runs while pitching mostly out of Citizens Bank Park, the hitter-friendly facility that was home to many big playoff games.

Just 12 months ago, he would've been a lot more expensive. At around that time, the Phillies offered him a reported four-year, $44 million contract to return as their closer. But for some reason, they quickly turned their attention to Jonathan Papelbon, giving him a record $50 million while Madson was left dangling in the free-agent market until signing what Boras likes to call a "pillow contract" with the Reds on Jan. 13.

Madson's hope was to prove once again that he can be a full-time closer, then cash in on a more fruitful market this winter. But his plans were derailed in Spring Training, when right elbow irritation that appeared non-threatening evolved into a blown-out elbow that would make him go under the knife on April 11, making him start over once more.

"If you know anything about me, you know that I'm a pleaser," Madson said. "I want to please, in any fashion I can. For me, it's the baseball field. And I wasn't able to do that for the Reds. They gave me such a great opportunity, just like the Angels have this year, and it just didn't work out. I was emotional."

Now the emotions are a bit different. Now the emotions come with the thrill of playing for his hometown team, in a situation that may be ideal for a guy trying to prove he's a legit closer once more.

Madson feels he's better equipped to handle that now -- "I'm an experienced guy, so I know the emotions aren't going to take over," he said -- and Dipoto thinks it can be a great advantage.

"That's something I don't think you can take for granted -- someone who's willing to go out there and
fight for something that they've wanted to do their entire lives," Dipoto said. "There's a romantic edge to that, but there's also something that creates an edge that you just can't go out and replace."

Ex-cop gets 15 years in prison for selling NYPD guns to drug ring

A dirty cop was sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing guns from his East Village police station house for his drug dealer.

Nicholas Mina, who'd been a cop for four years, peddled four 9 mm guns from his coworkers' lockers so he could feed his prescription drug habit, said his lawyer Robert Gallo.

"He takes responsibility and accountability for his actions," Gallo said, which were brought about by "the scourge of prescription drugs."

Justice Edward McLaughlin said the reason for Mina's crimes are "uncontested," but what he did was "inexcusable."
In addition to swiping three Glocks and a Smith & Wesson at the Ninth Precinct earlier this year, Mina admitted to selling his own private-use Glock - and investigators caught him on wiretaps talking about taking and selling more guns.

Those weapons could have been used against Mina's fellow officers, the judge noted.

He stuck to the terms of the plea agreement Mina worked out with prosecutors last month, and sentenced him to 15 and a half years in prison followed by five years on parole.

Mina declined to speak at the sentencing.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance called the case "a striking example of the destruction that surrounds prescription drug abuse."

"The defendant took an oath to protect New Yorkers from criminals. Instead, he worked alongside a gun trafficker in order to feed his drug addiction," Vance said.

Gallo said his client had started abusing Percoset and Vicadin after he was rpescribed the painkillers by an NYPD doctor after getting into an accident in his patrol car.

Investigators discovered his gun peddling while they were investigating a Queens based drugs-for-guns kingpin named Ivan Chavez.

Mina, a cop for 4 1/2 years, was so desperate for painkillers that he sometimes called Chavez from the precinct, court papers say.

The cops recovered all four of the stolen weapon plus Mina’s own gun from Chavez’s apartment. He had already heavily defaced the serial numbers.

Chavez pleaded guilty to conspiracy and firearms sales in September, and is expected to be sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

The Chavez conspiracy has also embroiled a dot-com millionaire — Jennifer Sultan, 38, who allegedly sold Chavez some 60,000 pain pills also recovered in his apartment. She's been working on
a plea deal with prosecutors.

Broxton happy to remain part of Reds' bullpen

CINCINNATI -- Before the Reds make any decision about moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, they had to be sure they had a capable and experienced closer ready to step up.  The club felt that person was free-agent reliever Jonathan Broxton, who was re-signed Wednesday to a three-year, $21 million contract. The deal includes a $9 million club option for 2016 and a limited no-trade clause. If he is traded, it becomes a $22 million contract with a mutual option. "Last year when I got traded, it was to a great team. I had a lot of fun there," Broxton said. "There were a lot of young guys that can really do something in the future. And the Reds were really aggressive with me in the offseason. I loved it there when I was there. It helped out that I had some experience there when I was with them." Broxton, 28, was acquired by Cincinnati from Kansas City in a Trade Deadline deal on July 31 for Minor League pitchers J.C. Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph. The aim of the trade was to have Broxton be a setup man to help with the playoff push and a backup closer for Chapman.  The Reds also had designs on retaining Broxton after the season. "We had that feeling when we traded for him," Reds assistant general manager Bob Miller said. "That was one of the reasons we were willing to give up those two young pitchers for Jonathan. We looked at him as something past a short term two months. He was somebody we'd like to have in the organization for a good, long while." In 60 appearances totaling 58 innings, Broxton posted a 2.48 ERA, 27 saves, 56 hits, 17 walks and 45 strikeouts. While Chapman missed 10 days with shoulder fatigue in September, Broxton took over the ninth and was 4-for-4 in save chances. Broxton earned $4 million on his one-year contract in 2012. With his new contract, he will again earn $4 million in '13, $7 million in '14 and $9 million in '15. The '16 option buyout is worth $1 million.  Not a coincidence is that Broxton will be fully vested in the Major League pension in three years. Over an eight-year career with the Dodgers, Royals and Reds, Broxton has a 3.10 ERA and 111 saves. Getting a chance to pitch in the back end of the bullpen was the only assurance Broxton wanted -- whether or not it was closing. His priority was to pitch for a contender. "As long as we're winning at the end of the day, I don't care if I pitch the seventh, eighth, ninth or 10th," Broxton said. "It doesn't matter to me. As long as we're winning, I'm happy." The path now appears paved for the Reds to move Chapman into the rotation -- something that they wanted to do in 2012 before three injuries crushed the bullpen during Spring Training, namely closer Ryan Madson's season-ending elbow ligament tear.  Cincinnati initially tried using Sean Marshall as the closer last season before Chapman was installed in the ninth-inning role by manager Dusty Baker on May 20.  Chapman, 24, brought electricity and often dominance as a first-time closer while he racked up 38 saves in 43 chances, including a franchise single-season record 27 consecutive saves from June 26-Sept. 4. Overall, he was 5-5 with a 1.51 ERA, 23 walks and 122 strikeouts in 68 appearances as the Reds won the National League Central.  However, a switch to the rotation for the Cuban left-hander is not formally set in stone. "We told him before he left to prepare like he's coming in [to start]. That's the harder part, preparing to be a starter," Miller said. "When we talked to Jonathan, we said you're going to be in the back end of the bullpen. What happens will play out in Spring Training. It depends on what other moves we make in the offseason. There are concerns with Chapman's innings and things like that. Everything will play itself out. We just added another great arm to the bullpen. Pitching is going to win us championships." Chapman was signed to a six-year, $30.25 million contract in January 2010 and was originally expected to be a starter. The Reds sent him to Triple-A Louisville to develop as a starter before switching him to reliever midway and calling him up to pitch out of the bullpen down the stretch. In 2011, Chapman was a mostly successful setup man, but the hope was to still have him start in 2012. During camp last spring, he had a 2.12 ERA in five games (four starts), and had the best starting pitcher numbers before circumstances forced a change of direction. If Chapman was unsuccessful in the transition, he could always return to closing and Broxton was willing to return to a setup role.
"I will be happy to go to the eighth. It doesn't matter to me," Broxton said. "You saw what he did last year. He's electric. It's up to Dusty and the ownership what they want to do with him. It's not in my hands."

Tickets to Sunday's Jets-Cardinals game going for as low as $18 each

Furious Jets fans would rather take a bath on their pricey ducats for Sunday’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals than watch another humiliating defeat.

In the wake of Gang Green’s epic collapse to the Patriots on Thanksgiving, resale tickets to the next game are going for just $18 each, according to the latest offerings on Stub Hub.

That’s about 2/3rds of the tickets' face value.

There are 7,700 tickets on sale now on Stub Hub alone.

The Jets have had the highest average ticket price in the NFL this season at $117.94 – edging out the hated – but much more successful -- Patriots by ten cents, according to Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index.

Since the team moved into MetLife Stadium in 2010, Jets games have been filled with thousands of empty seats as fans have been unwilling to deal with jacked-up ticket prices and having to shell out one-time payments of anywhere from $2,500 to $30,000 for “personal seat licenses” that give you the right to buy tickets.

The team regularly buys up the empty seats to avoid games being blacked out on local television.

This season the Jets are 4-7 and tied for last place with the Buffalo Bills in the conference.

In last week’s game, the Patriots trounced the Jets 49-19, including a 52 -second span during which New England scored three touchdowns.

“I think everyone was shaking their heads, thinking, ‘How did that happen?’” cornerback Antonio Cromartie had told the Associated Press.

Pettitte's one-year deal with Yankees sealed

NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte is confident that his experienced left arm still has plenty of strong big league innings to offer. The Yankees are going to be counting on it.  Pettitte and the Yankees officially agreed to a one-year contract on Wednesday, as the 40-year-old left-hander quickly set aside any thoughts of retirement in favor of putting the pinstripes back on for another season.  "It was pretty easy once I started working out, trying to decide if I felt like I had the desire to do the work that needed to be put in," Pettitte said. "It was pretty easy for me to realize that this was something I wanted to try and do again." Pettitte's decision marks the second major move of New York's offseason, following last week's re-signing of right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda, and gives the Yankees a pair of battle-tested arms to slot behind staff ace CC Sabathia.  The game's active wins leader with 245 victories, Pettitte will earn a base salary of $12 million for his services, plus potential awards bonuses. In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated catcher Eli Whiteside for assignment. Though Pettitte was limited to just 12 regular-season starts in 2012 due to a fractured left ankle he sustained in late June, he proved that he still could compete at the highest level, coming out of retirement to go 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 75 1/3 innings. "I definitely think that if I would have pitched a full season and thrown 200 innings, that I definitely wouldn't feel as fresh and physically feel as good as I do right now," Pettitte said. "Obviously, I feel like that helped lead me to a quick decision." Because his competitive juices haven't been fully exhausted, Pettitte said, he also isn't ready to lock into the idea that 2013 will be his final season. "Whenever I shut it down again, that is going to be it," said Pettitte, who retired for the first time after the 2010 season. "It wouldn't be smart for me to just say right now that I would never play next year. I just don't think that would be smart, because I have no idea." Pettitte said that he didn't begin seriously preparing for the '13 season until about Nov. 16th, when his oldest son, Josh -- a right-handed pitcher -- committed to attend Baylor University.  "When I got home, it was straight nothing to do about me," Pettitte said. "It was all about trying to figure out Josh, and for the first major decision in his life, I wanted to just be there for him." The Yankees were sure that Pettitte had something left to offer; in fact, shortly after the postseason ended, Pettitte said that general manager Brian Cashman told him, "I don't know what you're going to do, but as soon as you decide, we want to sign you back." 
"That's obviously huge for a player," said Pettitte, who also heard encouragement from Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. "For Cash to reach out to me and tell me that, you feel like this organization feels pretty good about bringing you back." After returning from the broken ankle, Pettitte went 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in three September starts and posted a 3.29 ERA in his two postseason starts. Despite not adding to his total in October, he remains the active postseason wins leader with 19. "Knowing now that I have the rest of this offseason to train and get ready for a full season, I expect to be healthy," Pettitte said. "I expect to make my 34 starts or however many the Yankees want me to make. I think I can do that. If I didn't, I wouldn't try to do this again." The announcement frees the Yankees to begin looking at other areas of importance on their winter shopping list. New York had been focusing on pitching early in the offseason, and the team is still working toward an agreement with all-time saves leader Rivera, who will turn 43 on Thursday and is expected to agree to a one-year contract in the near future. The Yankees also have interest in retaining catcher Russell Martin, who is said to be drawing serious interest from the Pirates, among other teams, and they could also seek to bring back outfielder Ichiro Suzuki after his strong second half. Pettitte expressed confidence that the Yankees will be able to field a World Series contender in 2013, which also played into his quick decision to continue pitching.
"I think we're good enough to go all the way, I really do," Pettitte said. "I'm at the point where, if I didn't feel like we had a chance to win it deep down, I wouldn't do this. I feel like we've got a certain group of guys that are still there and that know how to win and know how to get it done, and we can go do that."

Dad was unable to save 6-year-old killed in Long Island bus crash

A heartbroken man whose stepson was killed last night when a bus plowed through their Long Island home made a desperate attempt to rescue the boy but could not get to him in time.

Six-year-old David Granados was killed when a municipal bus crashed into their Hempstead home as he was preparing for bed. Authorities said the bus driver swerved and jumped a curb to try to avoid hitting a pedestrian and barreled into the crowded house.

Santos Herrera, 41, said he was in the kitchen cooking when he heard something that sounded like a bomb.

“It was like an explosion,” Herrera said. “I ran to check on my kids, and I couldn’t see them. All the doorways were blocked. We couldn’t get out of the house. “We were trapped.

“I needed to get out somehow, so I found a sledgehammer my friend lent me and I used that to break the window. I heard my son, Josue, yelling, 'Daddy, Daddy.’ I called out to him and I pulled my son out of the window and outside. My other son was trapped on the floor by the bus. I could tell right away that he had died.”

Officials said the bus, a Nassau Inter County Express bus carrying about 20 passengers, was traveling westbound along Fulton Avenue shortly before 10 p.m. while a pedestrian was ambling across the street. Cops said the driver honked his horn several times.

Nassau police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack said the driver swerved right to try to avoid hitting the pedestrian but hit him anyway before jumping the curb and plowing into the house.

Inside, three adults and two children upstairs were unharmed.

But downstairs, where there were four adults and three children, David, 6, was killed, and his brother, Josue, was injured.

"Oh my God, my children,” the boys’ mother screamed after what sounded like an explosion, according to Alida Gutierrez, a family friend who lives in the house.

“She was crying, I was crying. I didn’t know what to do. I feel so bad for the mother.”

Lack said no criminal charges would be filed against the driver or the pedestrian.

"There is no reason to believe at all that the driver was intoxicated or speeding," Lack said.

Rockefelle​r Center Tree Lighting Ceremony Street Closures - Wednesday, November 28

5th Avenue and 6th Avenue between 48th Street and 52nd Street and 48th Street to 52nd Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue in Manhattan will be closed on Wednesday from 7 pm to 9 pm for the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Braves, Upton agree on deal, pending physical

ATLANTA -- The Braves made B.J. Upton their primary offseason target, and they likely can look forward to seeing him in their lineup for at least the next five years.  Multiple Major League sources confirmed that Upton and the Braves have agreed to a five-year deal worth approximately $75 million. The deal will be officially announced pending the results of a physical scheduled for Thursday morning in Atlanta. Upton chose the Braves after drawing interest from the Phillies and to a lesser extent, the Nationals. The 28-year-old outfielder had been with the Rays since being taken with the second selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. Along with enhancing the Braves' lineup with his coveted combination of speed and power, Upton will bring his highly regarded defensive skills to an outfield that already possesses Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward. As things currently stand, Upton will replace Michael Bourn in center field, as the Braves continue to search for a left fielder via a trade or the free-agent market. When the Braves began looking toward the future, they quickly determined Upton was the most attractive outfielder on the free-agent market. They did not have the financial resources available to compete for Josh Hamilton, and they were hesitant about bringing Bourn back with a five-year deal. With much of Bourn's value coming via his speed, the Braves were worried about the production he might provide near the end of a five-year deal. The speedy outfielder, who was acquired by the Braves at the 2011 Trade Deadline, will turn 30 in December. Along with being two years younger than Bourn, the 28-year-old Upton has shown the ability to provide both power and speed. This combination and his age seemingly made it easier for Atlanta to project what he might provide over the life of the contract. When the free-agent process began, Upton thought there was a good chance that he would end up with the Phillies. But the Braves put themselves in position to get a deal done when they made a solid impression on the veteran outfielder during his Nov. 15 visit to Turner Field. General manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez both were impressed with the maturity and knowledge Upton showed during that meeting. Upton's visit to Atlanta was enhanced when former manager Bobby Cox stopped by the clubhouse and spent some time talking baseball with the five-tool outfielder. Upton batted .246 with a career-high 28 homers and a .752 OPS in 146 games with the Rays in 2012.  He also recorded a career-high 169 strikeouts and posted an alarming .298 on-base percentage. Over the past three seasons, Upton has combined to hit .242 with a .317 on-base percentage and .436 slugging percentage. These are not the numbers that were necessarily envisioned when Upton was drafted with great expectations 10 years ago. But the athletic outfielder has continued to impress scouts with his skills and ability to come through in the clutch. He hit eight home runs while helping Tampa Bay reach the 2008 World Series.
Upton has increased his home run total each of the past five years and he has recorded at least 31 stolen bases each of the past five seasons. He finished two home runs shy of joining the 30/30 club in 2012.

A zebra and a pony prance through Staten Island

A black and white striped beast and his miniature create companion were caught on camera running down Victory Boulevard in Staten Island this morning.

The zebra in question, named Razzi, and his pony pal, named Casper, escaped from a home near the corner of Victory Boulevard and Travis Avenue at around 9 A.M. this morning but were first spotted in a shopping center nearby.

"I was looking out my window when I saw a zebra and the pony run by so I grabbed my phone," said Zachary Osher who watched the whole event unfold.

After Osher got outside he followed the zebra and pony around the corner of the shopping center whereupon they headed into the street and narrowly avoided an oncoming car.

A little while later the animals were corralled at a Staten Island Parks Department facility.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

QMT Will Have Three Lanes Into Manhattan For Morning Peak

Contraflow traffic lanes at the Queens Midtown Tunnel will begin Monday morning Nov. 26th, allowing three lanes of traffic into the city during the peak morning drive time beginning at 6 a.m.

The traffic pattern is being restored after repairs to the signal control system that operates the overhead lights inside the tunnel were completed. Following the storm, the system could keep the lights either green or red but could not be switched to operate both in the same tube, which is necessary when two-way traffic operation is in effect.

"With this change, the Queens Midtown Tunnel has been fully restored to pre-Sandy service," Governor Cuomo said.

The contraflow traffic pattern is normally used between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. to allow the most traffic to travel through the tunnel, which is a main corridor connecting Manhattan to Queens and Long Island via the Long Island Expressway. It will open an hour earlier on Monday, beginning at 6 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.

The tunnel was flooded with water from nearby Newtown Creek on Oct. 29 when Sandy struck. To see photos visit MTA's Flickr site.

The Queens Midtown Tunnel reopened in increments beginning with buses on Nov. 6th and cars on Nov. 9th. It was fully reopened to include trucks by Nov. 16th.

Work continues on the overhead signal control system at the Hugh L. Carey (formerlyBrooklyn- Battery) Tunnel, which was hit even harder by Sandy. The Carey Tunnel reopened to all traffic except trucks 24/7 on Nov. 19th.

Investigators looking into 'unanswered questions' about Mary Richardson Kennedy's suicide

Mary Richardson Kennedy’s family hired a high-powered Washington investigation firm and an ex- Manhattan homicide prosecutor to look into her death, The New York Post has learned.

The firm focused its probe on Robert Kennedy Jr., Mary’s estranged husband, and on many “unanswered questions,” according to sources who say they were questioned in the months following her May 16 suicide.

“It was definitely my impression that they were pursuing a wrongful-death action,” said a confidant of Mary’s interviewed by family investigators. “They had the same concerns I had about the crime scene.”

RFK Jr. has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with Mary’s death, and Mary’s family has not filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against him.

The firm first zeroed in on details of the hanging, according to another source who was questioned.

Specifically, the firm wanted to know whether Mary was a sailor, capable of tying a nautical knot for the noose, or could have climbed up to a 12-foot beam to tie the rope she used to hang herself in the garage of her Bedford Hills, NY, estate.

Sources close to the case said that Mary did not use a metal ladder in the garage, as initially reported, but that she may have climbed three boxes found near her body to get to the beam.

“Was there a platform she could stand on?” was one of the questions investigators asked in documents obtained by The Post.

Investigators also asked if any receipts for the purchase of a rope had been found and if any ropes were stored in the barn.

In communications obtained by The Post, a Richardson family member also requests that investigators help in “establishing Bobby’s activities and whereabouts in the days preceding Mary’s death.”

Probers also questioned one of Mary’s closest advisers about Mary’s state of mind and deteriorating relationship with her estranged husband.

The firm hired by the Richardson family, Investigative Group International, assigned Gary Fishman, a former veteran Manhattan assistant district attorney who tried murder cases, to lead the probe shortly after Mary’s death, sources said.

A wrongful-death suit — a civil action — is usually brought by close relatives of the deceased against someone who can be held liable for the person’s death.

IGI did not respond to the Post’s repeated calls and e-mails seeking comment, although a receptionist said that Fishman left the firm in September.

A spokesman for Mary’s family refused to answer any questions related to the probe and said, “The Richardson family continues to grieve for their sister Mary, and they have no comment at this time.”
RFK Jr. declined to comment.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Clown who died at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade mourned by neighbors

The clown who died performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was much more than a goofy guy in a costume, loved ones said yesterday.

Robert Blasetti, 67, was the green thumb of his close-knit Yonkers community, and shared his produce with neighbors.

“He was a wonderful, bighearted Teddy bear,” said Dr. Anna Dolan, a psychiatrist who had employed Blasetti as an office manager for the last 30 years.

Dolan said his death, after collapsing on Sixth Avenue at West 39th Street, was a great shock.

“He was a very jolly guy and your typical bighearted New Yorker,” she recalled.

Help arrived in seconds after Blasetti fell as he performed alongside his wife, Irene, 62. But witnesses said there was nothing anyone could do to save him.

“He fell onto his chest,” recalled Daniel Depew, a photographer. “A police officer rushed over, and an EMT jumped the fence — there happened to be an EMT in the crowd.”

The Blasettis, who have no children, looked forward every year to donning clown clothes for the parade. They had volunteered for the festivities for six years, Dolan said.

“He passed away doing something he loved and really enjoyed,” Irene Blasetti told Dolan.

They lived for 22 years on a quiet, tree-lined street across from a park.

“Robert was always outside working on his garden,” neighbor Tatiana Hernandez said.

“The community is close, so we would give each other little gifts,” she said. “My father is a fisherman, so we would give them fish. In return, they would give us fresh tomatoes from their garden.”

Neighbors closed ranks around Irene Blasetti yesterday, and most declined to speak of the tragedy.

“The news really rocked the entire block,” Hernandez said. “It’s sad to see something like this happen to such a wonderful couple.”

LIPA customers who spent weeks without power due to Sandy get zapped with normal electric bills

LIPA customers who spent weeks without power got zapped with their normal electric bills — as if the outages never happened.

The clueless utility charged Sandy-soaked Long Island residents an estimated rate that covered the entire billing cycle, and the statements made no mention of potential refunds to account for the prolonged blackouts.

Jonathan Saporta was slapped with a double whammy by the Long Island Power Authority — a $649 bill for the Long Beach home he left in October and a $281 bill for his new Great Neck pad.

He also is expecting a $1,700 bill for his storm-ravaged restaurant, Jake’s Wayback Burger, which is in hard-hit Long Beach and remains without power.

“I can’t get LIPA to acknowledge my existence on earth to talk to me about anything,” he ranted.

“But I guess they had power, so they could print my bills. Nice, right?”

Saporta, 33, moved to the Great Neck home on Oct. 1 and got the bill in the mail on Wednesday for a cycle covering 43 days — including the two weeks he spent in the dark following the Oct. 29 storm.

Even though he switched his account to the new address on Sept. 26, he still received an e-mail bill for the Long Beach house on Nov. 10 — and somehow it was $390 more than the previous month.

“I am not paying any of my bills, that much I promise,” said Saporta. “They can put me into collections, and I’ll fight them tooth-and-nail.

“It’s simply criminal.”

Michael Hilferty, 29, an attorney from Long Beach, was e-mailed his bill — which was about a dollar more than the previous month — as he chowed down on some turkey.

“To get this message on Thanksgiving was crass and classless. It’s just heartless,” he said.

His oceanfront building was flooded with 7 feet of water and inundated with 4 feet of sand, covering the LIPA meters.

Hilferty left the apartment, which remains dark and boarded up, and has been staying in Connecticut.

Yet he was hit for 29 days of electric usage, including delivery and system charges.

David Wasserman, 40, of Merrick, tried to report online the difference between his actual and estimated electric usage.

“I got some message that said, ‘Service records show your usage would be higher. Please call an operator for further assistance,’ ” he said. “No one ever picked up.”

LIPA did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Con Ed, on the other hand, wants to refund its Manhattan customers who lost power $3 and customers from other boroughs who lost power $6, the utility proposed this week in a filing with the Public Service Commission. Those figures represent a portion of customers’ fixed monthly bills, which exclude power usage.

Sandy victims hope for Powerball lottery windfall

With Sandy raining so much destruction on New York, maybe it’s time for a little good luck to shine down.

Across the city’s storm-thrashed neighborhoods yesterday, residents flocked to buy tickets for today’s Powerball lottery, which has grown to a jackpot of $325 million.

The players weren’t just dreaming of riches — they hoped that the lottery’s manna from heaven would help wash away Sandy’s pain.

“If somebody here won, it would be awesome,” said Tory Urbaniak, 23, who bought $10 worth of tickets in Belle Harbor, Queens.

“They’d share it with everyone in this community, I’m sure. They definitely would give some type of donation,” added Urbaniak, who said the first thing she would do was replace her dad’s storm-flooded car.

“I’ve never played Powerball before, but I’m going to play because I think that something good has to happen to somebody around here,” said Doreen Nicosia-O’Connor, 45, in Far Rockaway, who lost her car in the hurricane and who bought $6 worth of tickets.

“I think someone in the Rockaways should win,” she said. “They’d give it back to this town, maybe not all of it, but a big chunk.

“And the more people in this neighborhood who buy, the bigger chances we have to win, and I know we’d all help each other.”

The Powerball jackpot is the third-largest in the game’s history and would pay the winner a $213 million lump sum before taxes.

Sam Castino, 39, a construction worker from Brooklyn, said his home flooded in the superstorm.

“Let’s just say I could use a few extra million,” he said. “Maybe not that much, but we gotta get all new siding, some new furniture, carpeting in some places.

“I mean, hey, who couldn’t use 300 million bucks?”

On Staten Island, John Ricafort, 49, who saw his home in Great Kills flooded and ruined, bought three tickets from a store in Ocean Breeze.

“If I win, I’ll definitely move away from the water,” he told The Post. “Maybe to California, but I don’t know about the earthquakes.”

At Belle Harbor Cards and More in the heart of the hard-hit Queens neighborhood, Christina
Reggiero, 24, thought that a win by anyone in the area would be a win for all.

“If someone from this neighborhood won it would help out everybody. It would be nice for someone here to win because they’d give back,” said Reggiero who worked at the store and who also $10 worth of tickets.

“My house in Broad Channel lost the bottom floor. If I won, I would help my family rebuild it,” she said. “I’ve been out of work since this hurricane, I’ve been at home helping my family, we lost everything on the bottom floor.”

John Biscaino, 52, of Far Rockaway, said: “It would be poetic justice if someone in this neighborhood won. I’ve been here my whole life. The house I grew up in burnt to the ground. It’s hard to see this.

“How nice if a true Rockaway-ite won.”

Thieves strike storm-damaged Breezy Point homes over Thanksgiving holiday

The grinches struck early this year.

Residents of storm-battered Breezy Point returned from the Thanksgiving holiday to discover that thieves had looted their damaged homes — even taking one family’s change jars, The Post has learned.

At least three homeowners in the Queens enclave were robbed, including a couple that lost a $25,000 coin collection along with jewelry and watches at their flooded house.

The break-ins — part of a rash of recent burglaries — occurred between Wednesday and Thursday, when most residents were away for the holiday.

Burglars struck a house whose basement art and recording studios were lost to Sandy’s floodwaters — and made off with $400 in two change jars.

“I’ve been putting my best efforts forward into putting my home back together and staying strong,” said the home’s owner, Robert Bainbridge, 57.

“This just adds insult to injury.”

In addition to his studios, his family lost two cars.

“It’s a total lack of morals and ethics on their part,” said Bainbridge, a married father of a teenage girl.

“Whoever did this is not thinking, ‘This could happen to me.’ ”

He believes a screwdriver was used to pry open his front door. Fearing another burglary, he erected a wood barricade against the door.

“I have apprehension and angst that this might happen again,” he said.

Another break-in victim called it a “terrible violation.”

“It’s just been one big ordeal,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used.

“I’m very uncomfortable. I don’t want them coming back here. All I wanted to do was come home.”

She and her husband had left their house Wednesday — their first day with electricity since Sandy — to stay with family for the holiday.

They returned yesterday to find a window near the dining room pried open and the front door

Her husband’s collection of silver half-dollars, worth $25,000, was the most valuable item taken, but the couple is most upset about a pair of stolen watches.

One was a gift the wife gave to her husband.

The other was given to the man, a former ironworker, by his employer in honor of his retirement.

“Those are more sentimental to me,” he said.

He said cops told him he was one of many burglary victims in Breezy Point.

“People aren’t here during the week, so when they come back on the weekend, they notice their stuff is gone,” he said.

His wife said, “It’s usually such a safe community, but with what went on here, anyone could put on a Con Ed uniform and just walk around.”

They had never been robbed before, the wife said.

“We’ve lived here for 30 years, and nothing like this has ever happened,” she said.

“We have deck furniture outside, plants. Nothing has ever been taken before.”

A laptop and jewelry were stolen from a home whose living room, dining room and bathroom were destroyed in the storm and that was still without power.

Its owner didn’t realize the home was broken into at first, because so much of it was damaged by the storm.

“Our house is in bad shape. It looks like an earthquake hit it,” she said.

She had returned to meet with her insurance company to assess the damage but noticed that many of her drawers had been rifled through.

Cops told the victims burglaries are on the rise in Breezy Point.

There were 14 home break-ins from Nov. 12 to Nov. 18, compared with none a year before.

And in the 28 days before that, there were 48 burglaries. Only four break-ins were reported in that time period the year before.

In the days after Sandy, some of the hardest-hit areas were plagued with store looting, home burglaries, street muggings and other crimes.

Bloomberg announces new $5.5 million grant to help small businesses struggling after Sandy

New York City is stepping up efforts to help small businesses struggling after Superstorm Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new $5.5 million grant program on Saturday. He also noted that banks have pledged another $5 million to what was already a $10 million emergency loan fund.

The new grant program is designed to complement the loans.

Businesses that have been displaced for at least three weeks can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 to help with repairs, supplies and other storm-related expenses.

The money comes from the nonprofit Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City and the Partnership for New York City, a business group.

Businesses can apply by calling 311 and asking for "NYC Business Solutions" or visiting NYC Business Solutions online.

PATH service to Lower Manhattan to resume Monday

TRENTON, NJ — Weekday PATH service to Lower Manhattan along the World Trade Center line will resume early Monday.

Officials say those trains will run from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., with stops in New Jersey at Newark, Harrison, Journal Square, Grove Street and Exchange Place and in New York at the World Trade Center.

Disabled access will be available at Newark and World Trade Center.

Floodwater spawned by Superstorm Sandy inundated the World Trade Center station, covering its track bed with several feet of water. Port Authority PATH crews have since removed millions of gallons of water from the tracks and platforms and repaired or replaced damaged switching and signal systems.

The line will not operate on weekends, so crews can continue their repair work.

Confidential Nassau County police documents — including info on undercover cops — used as confetti in Macy's parade

Red-faced Nassau County officials are investigating how confidential police documents — which contained arrest records, social security numbers, and information about undercover officers — was tossed from windows as confetti during Thursday's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Midtown.

WPIX reports that paradegoers at the annual event were stunned when the poorly-shredded documents landed on city streets, with the sensitive information still clearly visible despite being cut into strips.

Among the information that could be easily seen included details of Mitt Romney's motorcade during a visit to Long Island, arrest records, and the identities, social security numbers and birth dates of Nassau County police detectives — some of whom appear to be undercover cops, the station reported,
Nassau County police spokesman Inspector Kenneth Lack told the station that the department "is very concerned about this situation" and has launched an investigation.

Macy's told the station that whoever threw the confetti did it on their own: The parade uses "commercially manufactured, multicolor confetti, not shredded paper," Macy's said.

Kuroda re-signs with Yankees on one-year deal

NEW YORK -- Seeking stability in their rotation, the Yankees on Tuesday turned to the same place they found it a year before. The club re-signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract worth a reported $15 million plus incentives, answering perhaps the most critical question of New York's offseason.  "I suspect it was a very aggressive market for him, as it should have been," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I feel fortunate that we were able to acquire him last year, and I feel the same way this year." Most important for the Yankees, Kuroda should provide the same sort of consistency he did in 2012, when he went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts, leading the team in wins, ERA, starts, complete games and shutouts. Though Kuroda recently rejected the Yankees' one-year, $13 million qualifying offer, it was widely assumed that he was still interested in a one-year deal. He was also reportedly considering a return to Los Angeles, where he played from 2008-11 with the Dodgers, or Japan, where he broke into professional baseball with the Hiroshima Carp in 1997. "I am very happy and excited to re-sign with the Yankees," Kuroda said. "I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me. It was a tough decision for me to make, but at the end of the day, I wanted to try to win a championship with the teammates that I went to battle with last season." Kuroda, who will turn 38 before Opening Day, has found mostly success since leaving the Carp to try his hand in the Majors. He posted a 3.45 ERA over four seasons with the Dodgers, striking out more than three times as many batters as he walked. Answering all questions about his readiness to tackle the American League East last season, he proved immune to the regression that haunts most pitchers upon a jump from the National League. As a result, he quickly became indispensable to the Yankees, who would have been hard-pressed to replace him considering the state of their rotation. CC Sabathia should again anchor the rotation next season, and Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova or David Phelps could round out the bunch behind him. But beyond the very top of the rotation, the situation grows murky. "He can play a really important role here as he did last year," Cashman said. "He's a pro. He did everything on the field and had a seamless transition to New York in our clubhouse and off the field, so he was a welcome addition last year and I look forward to him this year slotting behind CC and make our starting rotation deeper." Kuroda was one of three players to reject qualifying offers from the Yankees. The others, Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher, are not as likely to re-sign, though the Yankees are good bets to pursue Soriano for bullpen insurance behind Mariano Rivera. Because the Yankees gave Kuroda a qualifying offer, they would have been eligible for Draft pick compensation had he signed with another club. In his five big league seasons, Kuroda has never produced an ERA lower than 3.07 or higher than 3.76. He has thrown at least 196 innings in each of his last three seasons, which could be his most valuable trait for a team searching for rotation consistency. Nor did hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium adversely affect him; he went 11-6 with a 2.72 ERA at home compared with 5-5 with a 4.23 mark on the road. "As a pitcher, I try to evolve and be creative every year that I pitch," Kuroda said during the regular season. "I like to believe that I'm evolving and that I'm a better pitcher now than I was before." He apparently evolved enough to become one of the few Yankees who carried his regular-season success into the postseason, giving up five runs over a combined 16 innings against the Orioles and Tigers. Kuroda struck out 14 and walked five, though the Yankees supported him with a total of three runs in his two outings. Next up for the Yankees could be Andy Pettitte, who is deciding whether to play another season at age 41. Though it is widely expected that Pettitte, who went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts last season, will return for another go, it is possible he could choose to retire for the second time in two years. He missed three months last summer with a broken left fibula after coming out of retirement to rejoin the Yankees.
"Andy is deciding whether he wants to play," Cashman said. "As of right now he hasn't put himself in play, so there really is nothing to discuss at this point until he goes through that process which he said he will be doing."

Boxer Hector 'Macho' Camacho dies after being taken off life support

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hector "Macho" Camacho was a brash fighter with a mean jab and an aggressive style, launching himself furiously against some of the biggest names in boxing. And his bad-boy persona was not entirely an act, with a history of legal scrapes that began in his teens and continued throughout his life.

The man who once starred at the pinnacle of boxing, winning several world titles, died Saturday back in the Puerto Rican town of Bayamon where he was born, ambushed in a parking lot in a car where packets of cocaine were found.

Camacho, 50, left behind a reputation for flamboyance — leading fans in cheers of "It's Macho time!" before fights — and for fearsome skills as one of the top fighters of his generation.

"He excited boxing fans around the world with his inimitable style," promoter Don King told The Associated Press.

Camacho fought professionally for three decades, from his humble debut against David Brown at New York's Felt Forum in 1980 to an equally forgettable swansong against Saul Duran in Kissimmee, Florida, in 2010.

In between, he fought some of the biggest stars spanning two eras, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Roberto Duran.

"Hector was a fighter who brought a lot of excitement to boxing," said Ed Brophy, executive director of International the Boxing Hall of Fame. "He was a good champion. Roberto Duran is kind of in a class of his own, but Hector surely was an exciting fighter that gave his all to the sport."

Camacho's family moved to New York when he was young and he grew up in Spanish Harlem, which at the time was rife with crime. Camacho landed in jail as a teenager before turning to boxing, which for many kids in his neighborhood provided an outlet for their aggression.

"This is something I've done all my life, you know?" Camacho told The Associated Press after a workout in 2010. "A couple years back, when I was doing it, I was still enjoying it. The competition, to see myself perform. I know I'm at the age that some people can't do this no more."

Former featherweight champion Juan Laporte, a friend since childhood, described Camacho as "like a little brother who was always getting into trouble," but otherwise combined a friendly nature with a powerful jab.

"He's a good human being, a good hearted person," Laporte said as he waited with other friends and members of the boxer's family outside the hospital in San Juan after the shooting. "A lot of people think of him as a cocky person but that was his motto ... Inside he was just a kid looking for something."

Laporte lamented that Camacho never found a mentor to guide him outside the boxing ring.

"The people around him didn't have the guts or strength to lead him in the right direction," Laporte said. "There was no one strong enough to put a hand on his shoulder and tell him how to do it."

George Lozada, a longtime friend from New York who flew to Puerto Rico on Saturday, recalled that just hours after he was released from prison after serving a murder sentence, he received a call from Camacho, who was waiting outside his apartment in a black Porsche.

"He said, 'Come down, I'm taking you shopping,'" Lozada said, wiping away tears.

"Because of him, man, I got what I got today," he said, pointing to pictures on his smartphone of his 6-year-old daughter. "Because of Hector, I stopped the drug scene ... He's helped so many people."

Drug, alcohol and other problems trailed Camacho himself after the prime of his boxing career. He was sentenced in 2007 to seven years in prison for the burglary of a computer store in Mississippi.

While arresting him on the burglary charge in January 2005, police also found the drug ecstasy.

A judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence and gave Camacho probation. He wound up serving two weeks in jail, though, after violating that probation.

Camacho's former wife, Amy, obtained a restraining order against him in 1998, alleging he threatened her and one of their children. The couple, who had two children at the time, later divorced.

He divided his time between Puerto Rico and Florida in recent years, appearing on Spanish-language television as well as on a reality show called "Es Macho Time!" on YouTube.

Inside the boxing ring, Camacho flourished. He won three Golden Gloves titles as an amateur, and after turning pro, he quickly became a contender with an all-action style reminiscent of other Puerto Rican fighters.

Long promoted by Don King, Camacho won his first world title by beating Rafael Limon in a super-featherweight bout in Puerto Rico on Aug. 7, 1983. He moved up in weight two years later to capture a lightweight title by defeating Jose Luis Ramirez, and successfully defended the belt against fellow countryman Edwin Rosario.

The Rosario fight, in which the victorious Camacho still took a savage beating, persuaded him to scale back his ultra-aggressive style in favor of a more cerebral, defensive approach.

The change in style was a big reason that Camacho, at the time 38-0, lost a close split decision to Greg Haugen at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 1991.

Camacho won the rematch to set up his signature fight against Mexico's Julio Cesar Chavez, this time at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Camacho was roundly criticized for his lack of action, and the Mexican champion won a lopsided unanimous decision to retain the lightweight title.

"Even though people say I beat him easily, it wasn't that way," Chavez told Mexico's ESPN-Radio Formula this week. "He was a very fast fighter, he faced everything and it was very hard for me."

"He revolutionized boxing, Chavez said. "It's a shame he got mixed up in so many problems."

After that loss, Camacho became the name opponent for other rising contenders, rather than the headliner fighting for his own glory.

He lost a unanimous decision to another young Puerto Rican fighter, Trinidad, and was soundly defeated by De La Hoya. In 1997, Camacho ended Leonard's final comeback with a fifth-round knockout. It was Camacho's last big victory even though he boxed for another decade.

The fighter's last title bout came in 1997 against welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya, who won by unanimous decision. Camacho's last fight was his defeat by Saul Duran in May 2010. He had a career record of 79-6-3.

Doctors pronounced Camacho dead on Saturday after he was removed from life support at his family's direction. He never regained consciousness after at least at least one gunman crept up to the car in a darkened parking lot and opened fire.

No arrests and have been made, and authorities have not revealed many details beyond the facts that police found cocaine in the car and that the boxer and his friend, who was killed at the scene, had no idea the attack was coming. "Apparently, this was a surprise," said Alex Diaz, a police spokesman.

Survivors include his mother; three sisters, Raquel, Estrella and Ester; a brother, Felix; and four sons, Hector Jr., Taylor, Christian and Justin.

Sleepy Hollow gives fire truck loaded with relief supplies to Sandy-damaged Queens community

The Headless Horseman’s town is certainly not heartless.

Sleepy Hollow, the Westchester hamlet fabled for Washington Irving’s no-noggin literary character, spent the weekend helping a Queens community devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

The Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department’s only truck was swamped by the superstorm that wreaked havoc in the tiny community by Jamaica Bay.

Luckily, the Village of Sleepy Hollow had a fire truck to spare.
With a brand new, Halloween-themed black and orange pumper truck making its Sleepy Hollow debut last month, firefighters and residents asked village trustees to give the department’s old, 1991
vehicle, which holds 10 men and 500 gallons of water, to Broad Channel.

Last week village trustees voted to “sell” the engine to Broad Channel for $1.

Sleepy Hollow Volunteer Fire Department Chief Billy Ryan and Capt. Carlos Romero delivered the truck in grand style this morning, with two American flags fluttering from the back.

But the hand-off included more than just the truck: the vehicle was packed with sleeping bags, clothes, winter coats, canned food, school and cleaning supplies.

“We lost power for a few days. It was an inconvenience,” Romero said. “That is all it was for us but these people here — there is such devastation all along the coast, I felt it was an obligation to help them.”

Broad Channel volunteers were on hand to receive the gift at the department’s 107-year-old Noel Road fire house, which was damaged but still standing after being smacked by more than eight feet of flood waters.

“I appreciate everything,” said Broad Channel Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Wilmarth. “It is nearly identical to the one we lost, so to see the yellow rig coming down the street it was kind of cool. It feels like we didn’t lose one. Our guys are going to be happy.”

Sleepy Hollow had just one request when it came to its gift, trustee Barbara Carr said.

“The only thing we asked is that they leave the Headless Horseman logo on the side of the truck so people will know where it came from,” she said.

Agent: Ichiro wants to stay with Yanks

Coming to the Yankees proved a boon to Ichiro Suzuki, and the 39-year-old free agent wants to keep a good thing going.   Suzuki's agent Tony Attanasio said Suzuki wants to remain with the Yanks, according to a New York Post report on Saturday.  "They are going after pitching first which is what the Yankees normally do," Attanasio said. "There has been a lot of interest [from teams], but he enjoyed playing for the Yankees so much it's hard for him to say no to the Yankees. His preference is to stay there instead of going someplace else, but we will wait and see."  Suzuki played 67 regular-season games with the Yankees last season after being traded by Seattle, the only other team he's ever played for in the Majors. He put up a .322/.340/.454 line, after he carried a .261/.288/.353 line in 95 games with Seattle.
Suzuki made $17 million last season, so he'll be taking a pay cut no matter where he goes. Re-signing some other veterans, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, appears highest on the Yankees' priority list right now.

Queens woman found dead in Bronx parked car may have been strangled by boyfriend

Cops are investigating whether a Queens woman found dead in a car parked in the Bronx was strangled by her beau, police sources said.

A man, 40, called 911 about 4:25 a.m. and told the operator that he killed his friend, sources said.

Police found the woman, 22, unconscious in the driver’s seat of her white Honda in Mott Haven at the intersection of Bruckner Boulevard and Brook Avenue. She was pronounced dead by EMS at 4:30 a.m.
Some blood was found coming from the woman’s nose but that was the only obvious sign of trauma, sources said.

Investigators believe she was killed in the man’s Fox Street apartment, and that he brought her body to the desolate Bruckner Boulevard intersection, about a mile and a half away, sources said.

He tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists there, but did not succeed.

EMS took him to Lincoln Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and to treat his arm injury, sources added.

Police were hunting for evidence near the woman’s car and pulled a suitcase of a dumpster this morning during the search.

The death has not been ruled a homicide yet. Police said the medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Storybook year ends in NL Cy Young for Dickey

NEW YORK -- In the opening lines of his autobiography, R.A. Dickey writes, "I will never be a Hall of Famer and will never lead the league in strikeouts," unaware that he would indeed achieve the latter feat in 2012.  Dickey recalls editing that passage with his co-author, Wayne Coffey, who asked why he did not include "winning the Cy Young" on the short list of accomplishments he supposedly would not achieve. "Because I hoped to," Dickey replied. "I hoped to win the Cy Young." Now he has. The Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday named Dickey the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, lifting him over finalists Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals.  Dickey, who shares his agent and hometown with American League winner David Price, is the first knuckleballer to win the award. "This is a story that's beyond me," he said. "It transcends R.A. Dickey. It's bigger than that." Dickey ran away with what appeared to be a tight Cy Young race, scoring 27 out of a possible 32 first-place votes and finishing with 209 points, more than twice as many as the runner-up, Kershaw.  En route to becoming the Mets' first 20-game winner in more than two decades, Dickey led the Senior Circuit in strikeouts, innings, complete games and shutouts, and ranked second in wins and ERA. Through it all, he expanded the legend that began when he joined the Mets early in 2010 as an apparent Minor League burnout. He became a best-selling author in 2012, writing an autobiography that chronicled his slog through the Minors and his history as a victim of sexual abuse. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. He starred in a documentary. And he pitched, arguably better than any knuckleballer in history. Often throwing his signature pitch at speeds in excess of 80 mph, he flummoxed hitters with multiple variations of it, visibly improving at the age of 37. Firing consecutive one-hitters during his best stretch of the summer, in June, Dickey set a franchise record with 32 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, later extending that to 44 2/3 innings without an earned run. Seven times he struck out at least 10 batters in a game, including a career-high 13 in his 20th victory, on Sept. 27 -- a game that appeared to lock up the Cy Young Award for him. "This is fitting recognition for a remarkable season," general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement. "We are very proud of R.A. and what he achieved in 2012." Any thoughts of Dickey fading down the stretch evaporated when he went 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA over his final nine starts. After the last of those outings, Dickey revealed that he had been pitching since April with a torn abdominal muscle, an injury he had surgically repaired last month. As if this story needed another chapter. In winning the game's most prestigious pitching award, Dickey became the Mets' third Cy Young Award winner and their first since Dwight Gooden in 1985. Tom Seaver won three times for the Mets, in 1969, '73 and '75. "To win the Cy Young Award at his age," Gooden said in a statement, "is more incredible than when I won at age 20." Dickey also feels the award adds a measure of legitimacy to his signature pitch. Within a half-hour of winning, he received 127 text messages and roughly three dozen phone calls. His first responses were to Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough, all of whom tutored him in the years after he became a full-time knuckleballer in 2005. In large part because of those three and several of the game's other knuckleballers, along with the friends and family members who gave him the freedom necessary to pursue his dream, Dickey stressed that this is far more than an individual award. He likened himself to a "piece on the game board." "This is something to be celebrated with everybody," he said. "Not least among these are the fans in New York. They will never know how much it meant for them to come out when we were having a tough season, and get loud and put up signs, all kinds of things like that. They supernaturally affected me in a way that was positive." If Dickey has his way, he will be pitching in front of them again in 2013. The Mets recently exercised the $5 million team option on his contract for next season and are in the process of negotiating a long-term extension. But Dickey's name has also swirled in trade rumors as the Mets look to improve upon other aspects of their rebuilding club. Dickey responded to those rumors on Wednesday by saying, "I've loved nothing more in my baseball career than being a New York Met."
"I'm not afraid to say that it's been an incredible experience with the New York Mets," he added. "I certainly would love to stand on Opening Day ... at the plate and lift up the Cy Young trophy and tell everybody that they were a part of this. And I hope that that will happen. I really do."

Man shot dead at B'klyn boutique in what could be latest address-based killing

A Great Neck man was shot dead inside of his Brooklyn boutique last night — and cops linked the murder to a pair of similar slayings that could be connected by the addresses of the murder scenes, sources said.

Ballistics tests matched in the three killings – all of which occurred in Brooklyn shops -- as did a common digit 8 in the addresses of the stores, the sources said.

"Right now they [the addresses] all have eights, which is a similarity," a law enforcement source told the New York Post. "It’s in the beginning stages of the investigation. It might have no meaning at all."

Vahidipour Rahmatollah, 78, was found the back of She She Boutique with two gunshot wounds to the head and one to the torso, sources said.

The Iranian shopkeeper was shot behind the counter and dragged into the back where the killer covered his body with clothes, the sources added.

“He was in the middle of the store on the right near the corner. You could see the blood trail from the cash register which is in the front of the store,” said a clerk at a neighboring store.

“He was lying on his belly. Blood was on the floor and all around his head.”

Grieving relatives mourned the loss of the hardworking father and grandfather.

"He never had in his whole life one enemy, he didn't have, he was a very kind man," said his sobbing wife, Naima Rahmatollan, who said that today he was supposed to be at his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.

His daughter said that they began to worry when Rahmatollah didn’t come home at his usual time.

"He usually comes home around 9, 9:30, he didn't show up 10, 10:30 so we called the police,” said Yasmin Rahmatollan. “A half hour later detectives came and I got the picture he was dead. It was so shocking, and it was one of the worst nights of my life."

Detectives were seen entering their home this afternoon.

The shell casings recovered at the crime scene yesterday matched those used at two other murders of Brooklyn store owners.

Cops had been investigating whether the killer was obsessed with the numbers 1, 7 and 8.

On July 6, store owner Mohammed Gebeli, 65 was found shot to death at his clothing store at 7718 Fifth Ave. On Aug. 2, police found Isaac Kadare, 59, dead in his Bensonhurst store at 1877 86th St.

The address of yesterday’s killing also included the number 8 — 836 Flatbush Ave.

Cash was taken in the first two killings, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether anything was stolen in last night’s slaying.

Weekend Bridge and Street Closures - November 17-18, 2012

The Brooklyn Bridge will be closed to Manhattan-bound traffic on Saturday and Sunday from 1 am to 7 am to facilitate bridge construction activity.

East 59th Street between 2nd Avenue and 3rdAvenue will be closed from 7 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday to facilitate Department of Design and Construction (DDC) trunk water main and utility work. Motorists should use alternate routes and posted detours to access the Queensboro Bridge such as 2nd Avenue southbound or East 58th Street eastbound onto the Second Avenue contra flow lane.

Madison Avenue between 42nd Street and 57th Street in Manhattan will be closed on Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm for the American Diabetes Association and St. Patrick’s Cathedral Fair.

6th Avenue between 34th Street and 42nd Street in Manhattan will be closed on Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm for the Midtown South Community Council and Gramercy Park Neighborhood Association Fair.

There will be lane closures on the northbound Gowanus Expressway between 34th Street and 31st Street on Saturday from 12:01 am to 6 am to facilitate NYSDOT construction activity. The Gowanus Expressway northbound/inbound exit ramp to 38th Street will be closed from 5 am to 9 am Saturday. Motorists should use the prior 3rd Avenue exit as alternate route. The Gowanus Expressway southbound/outbound exit ramp to 39th Street will be closed from 6 am to 4 pm Saturday. Motorists should use the prior Hamilton Avenue exit as alternate route.

The times listed for closures for street fairs are for the actual times of the street fairs themselves. The streets may be closed longer to allow for set-up and breakdown. Street fair organizers are generally permitted to begin set-up at 8 am and breakdown must be completed by 7 pm.

Detailed information on weekend street closures will be available on the DOT web site at:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monthly MetroCards will not be reimbursed after Sandy

Count your monthly MetroCard as a casualty of Hurricane Sandy.

Straphangers will not be reimbursed for time lost during the superstorm — despite more than three days without subways and service that’s still limited in parts, officials said.

The decision to leave riders in the lurch was made quietly last Friday, the same day the MTA finally restored service on the N train to Coney Island, said agency spokesman Adam Lisberg.
A day earlier, the MTA restored L train service to Manhattan from Brooklyn — after 10 days.

Parts of the R, 1 and A trains are still down, but MTA brass said they won’t refund any money or add time to monthly MetroCards bought before the storm.

“There will be no extensions on MetroCards,” Lisberg said.

The news didn’t sit well.

“They’re constantly raising prices!” said Roxanna Marroquin, 26, a Brooklyn rider. “They should give back. They’re always taking but not giving.”

The next fare hike goes in to effect in March.

The MTA did give two free days after restoring very limited service on Nov. 1, but it was of little good to riders like Ingrid Marshall, who had already shelled out $104 for her monthly MetroCard.

“I would love to get something in return, especially because my commute to work was terrible,” said Marshall, 37, a 4/5 train rider whose line didn’t run from Brooklyn to Manhattan for five days.

For lost or stolen unlimited MetroCards, the MTA typically will reimburse the rider $3.47 for each day of lost service.

Using that figure, straphangers would get $10.41 worth of rides if the MTA decided to provide reimbursements for the storm.

The agency earlier announced it was extending Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North monthly cards through Nov. 5.

But unlike MetroCards, the commuter rail passes are good for only one calender month.

Meanwhile, there was some good news and some bad news for New Jersey commuters.

PATH’s 9th Street station is reopening today, but passengers will be able to exit there only between 5 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. After 9:30 a.m., passengers will be able to enter and exit PATH trains at the station until 10 p.m.

PATH’s temporary line will now include stops at Newark, Harrison, Journal Square, Grove Street, and Newport in New Jersey, and at the 9th, 14th, 23rd and 33rd Street stations in Manhattan.

Trains will bypass Christopher Street.

PATH service remains suspended at Hoboken, Exchange Place and World Trade Center.

NJ Transit director James Weinstein said it will take two more weeks to get the system back to normal.

In other developments:
  • The city’s beleaguered Housing Authority was making up for lost services. Public-housing tenants will be eligible for rent credits for the days they have been without electricity, heat and running water because of the storm.
  • Residents still without power in hard-hit areas like the Rockaways and Staten Island will get a visit Thursday from President Obama. He is tentatively scheduled to take a Marine One tour of the Rockaways and Long Island with Gov. Cuomo before flying to Staten Island, where he will meet with Mayor Bloomberg.
The president’s helicopter practiced landings at Staten Island’s Miller Field yesterday.
  • Cuomo said he will seek a $30 billion federal appropriation from Congress to help rebuild.
The funds will be used for infrastructure, housing, small businesses and helping the government with reconstruction.

“This was cataclysmic for New York, and I think it’s a wise investment for the federal government to help us build this economy back,” Cuomo said.
  • Bloomberg announced a $500 million emergency spending plan to repair public schools and hospitals that need structural restorations, boilers, electrical systems and roofs. He wants federal government reimbursement.
  • Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson used recovery efforts to take a swipe at Bloomberg, saying that public-housing residents have been ignored and that too much time passed before hospital damage was reviewed.
  • Nassau County cops took to light-equipped helicopters last night to patrol streets where looting is a risk.

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree survived Sandy

MOUNT OLIVE, NJ — The Christmas tree that will dominate New York's Rockefeller Center survived the winds of Superstorm Sandy that left a path of destruction in a New Jersey town and even its donor without electricity for weeks.

Joe Balku, 76, learned that the 80-foot Norway spruce had been chosen for the honor four weeks ago. Sandy hit two weeks later.

Balku watched the tree, which weighs 10 tons and is 50 feet in diameter, as it swayed in the backyard.

"I kept going outside during the night. I lost two trees, an oak and an evergreen, but the big tree was tied up for its protection," Balku said.
His electricity went out, but on the morning after the storm, the tree was still standing and his home did not sustain any damage.

The tree was about 22-feet tall when Balku purchased the home in 1973.

Balku had two generators running to power his home in the rural community about an hour from Manhattan. He didn't have cable TV or Internet service.

Electricity was restored on Saturday.

The tree will be loaded on a 115-foot-long flatbed truck and erected at Rockefeller Center on Wednesday. Workers will then string 45,000 lights on the branches.

"It's a thrill of a lifetime to have the chance to donate the tree to Rockefeller Center and for millions of people to see it all over the world," he said.

The 80th Christmas tree lighting will take place on Nov. 28.

Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to be reopened soon: source

The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel -- which was flooded with millions of gallons of water during superstorm Sandy — will be reopened soon, according to a government source.

Gov. Cuomo, MTA chairman Joseph Lhota and US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood are expected to make the announcement later today.

The source said it would be a “limited” reopening.

The Tunnel — which officials recently renamed after form Gov. Hugh Carey — was the most damaged of all the major crossings in the region during the storm.

It is the only one that is still closed due to Sandy.

Murder suspect John McAfee says he did not do it

Wanted for murder and on the run from the police in Belize, tech pioneer John McAfee says that he didn’t kill his neighbor and that whoever did might have been gunning for him.

“I thought maybe they were coming for me,” McAfee told Wired. “They mistook him for me. They got the wrong house. He’s dead. They killed him. It spooked me out.”

McAfee, who pioneered antivirus software at his eponymous company, says authorities searched his tropical compound Sunday afternoon while he hid himself in the sand with a cardboard box over his head so he could breathe.

“It was extraordinarily uncomfortable,” McAfee said.

McAfee has had to resort to such extraordinary evasion tactics because he is wanted for the murder of American expatriate Gregory Faull, 52, who was McAfee’s neighbor. Faull was found dead of a single gunshot to the back of his head over the weekend.

Initial reports about McAfee’s suspected involvement in the murder failed to turn up a motive, but it might have had something to do with the four dogs that he kept at his compound.

The dogs were a constant bother to neighbors, including Faull, and they were mysteriously poisoned Friday night, according to McAfee.

Their death prompted the eccentric McAfee into a bout of paranoia as he came to believe that Belizean authorities were responsible for their death.

“The coast guard dropped off a contingent of black-suited thugs at 10:30 [Friday night] at the dock next door. They dispersed on the beach. A half hour later my dogs had been poisoned,” McAfee said.

McAfee believes that the poisoning of his dogs was just another incident in a long running campaign against him by the Belizean government. In April, Belize’s Gang Suppression Unit raided one of his properties and accused him of manufacturing methamphetamine and possessing illegal guns. The charges were later dropped.

Marco Vidal, the head of the Gang Suppression unit denies McAfee's conspiracy claims, "This guy amazes me every day. We don't have anything personal against Mr. McAfee. There is no need for us to poison dogs."

Now McAfee is on the run and does not plan to either talk to police or leave the country.

“Under no circumstances am I going to willingly talk to the police in this country,” McAfee said, “They’ve been trying to get me for months. They want to silence me.”

But McAfee says, “I like it here. It’s the nicest place on earth."

Exclusive: Gen. John Allen also helped Jill Kelley's sister during custody battle

Both Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. John Allen intervened in the same nasty child custody battle involving Natalie Khawam, the “psychologically unstable” twin sister of Jill Kelley, whose bombshell claims of being threatened by Petraeus' lover led to the top spy’s resignation last week, the New York Post has learned.

Allen, the four-star general top commander in Afghanistan, was revealed last night to have exchanged thousands of pages of of emails with Kelley, who went to the feds after receiving threatening e-mails from Paula Broadwell, the married mistress of Petraeus.

A judge noted in the file that Khawam "has attached letters from Gen. David H. Petraeus averring to her ability to appropriately parent the child, and is prepared to present corroborating testimony at trial."

And in court documents filed by Kelley's sister Natalie Khawam, she name-drops both Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island -- who both have ties to a Providence, RI, lawyer/Democratic fundraiser who loaned a whopping $300,000 to Khawam.

A spokesman for Whitehouse today that lawyer, Gerald Harrington, has dated and "may have been engaged to Khawam." Harrington has not returned a call seeking comment.

Khawam claimed in a July 12 letter to her estranged husband that she took their now 4-year-old son "on vacation last year to Martha Vineyard," where their son and "I had a great time at the DSCC [Democratic Senate Campaign Committee] event."

"Sen. John Kerry asked if [her son] would be coming again this year," Khawam wrote. "[Their son] was a superstar at the DSCC last year."

A spokeswoman for Kerry – who the Washington Post reports is being considered as President Obama's next secretary of defense -- in an email comment wrote, "Senator Kerry’s friend Jerry Harrington introduced him to his girlfriend (Natalie) at a DSCC event."

Also filed in that court case by Khawam is a letter from Whitehouse, who like Kerry is a Democrat.
That letter was written to Harrington, who has been a fundraiser for Kerry and other Democrats out of Rhode Island. Harrington, according to Khawam's federal bankruptcy filing earlier this year in Florida, gave her a personal loan of $300,000.

"Derry Gerry," Whitehouse wrote. "I am excited to hear that you and [Khawam's son] may be coming to the Family Clambake. That would be terrific! All the best wishes, Sheldon."

A related email from Khawam to her estranged husband -- from whom she was seeking permission to take their son to Whitehouse's annual fundraising clambake -- said that their son "knows Sen. Whitehouse and his family from spending time together with them last summer in Newport, R.I.

A spokesman for Whitehouse confirmed that the senator had written that invitation at the request of Harrington.

"Gerry Harrington is a pretty prominent political activist in Rhode Island," said Whitehouse's spokesman "I think Gerry has either been dating or may have been engaged to Natalie . . . Sheldon has met Natalie through Gerry."

Both Petraeus and Allen apparently decided intervene in the same nasty court fight involving Khawam's 4-year-old, siding with the mother who, according to court documents, took her son to Florida from Washington, DC, when he was four months old after a heated argument with her husband.

The generals' letters to the court — written in the past two months — supported a motion to overturn a ruling made nearly a year earlier by a judge who resoundingly denied custody to Khawam, because of serious reservations about her honesty and mental stability, court records show.

The father, Grayson Wolfe, was unable to see the child for more than a year, according to court documents. The judge overseeing the case cited Khawam with “outrageous conduct,” “bad faith litigation tactics,” and “illogical thinking,” awarding full custody to the father and socking the mom with $350,000 in legal fees in 2011.

The judge gave Wolfe sole custody of the couple’s son after finding that Khawam, a lawyer, repeatedly lied under oath and filed bogus domestic-violence and child-abuse claims against her husband after their one-year marriage began crumbling in 2009.

That judge also found that Khawam routinely defied court orders to let the child see his dad and sent harassing e-mails to Wolfe’s friends and business partners that “excoriated Mr. Wolfe for being a horrible father and husband.”

The judge blasted Khawam for giving false evidence, and noted that a court-ordered shrink had found her domestic-violence allegations to be “part of an ever-expanding set of sensational accusations . . . that are so numerous, so extraordinary and [so] distorted that they defy any common-sense view of reality.”

The judge also noted that she “is a psychologically unstable person.”

“My wife and I have known Natalie for approximately three years, getting to know her while serving in Tampa, Florida, through our friendship with Dr. and Mrs. Scott Kelley,”Petraeus wrote in a letterintroduced as part of a legal motion by Natalie Khawam’s lawyer.

“It is clear to me that [child’s name] would benefit from much more time with his Mother and from removal of the burdensome restrictions imposed on her when she does get to spend time with him,” Petraeus wrote.

Petraeus said he had observed Natalie and her son, “including when we hosted them and the Kelley family for Christmas dinner this past year. In each case, we have seen a very loving relationship – a Mother working hard to provide her son enjoyable, educational and developmental experiences,” he wrote.

“In view of this, it is unfortunate, in my view, that her interaction with her son has been so limited by the custody settlement,” Petraeus continued.

A separate letter from Allen is dated Sept. 22, two days after the Petraeus letter. “Natalie clearly loves [child’s name] and cherishes each and every opportunity she has to spend time with him. She is a dedicated mother,” Allen wrote. “In light of Natalie’s maturity, integrity and steadfast commitment to raising her child, I humbly request your reconsideration of the existing mandated custody settlement,” Allen wrote. He said he got to observe the mother and child “at command social functions.”

He signed his letter: “Gen. John R. Allen, General, United States Marine Corps,” on what appears to be official letterhead.

Allen’s letter does not mention any romantic relationship between himself and Kelley.

Petraeus, who just stepped down as CIA chief, signed his letter: “General, U.S. Army (Retired).
Politico reported that Gen. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan and a former top deputy to Petraeus at Central Command in Tampa, exchanged “potentially inappropriate” emails with Kelley, citing a senior defense official.