New York City will drop most charges against protesting firefighters, and a dozen people who claimed they needed help because of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks have been charged with stealing money from the American Red Cross.
Charges to Be Dropped Against Most Protesting Firefighters
N E W Y O R K, Nov. 10 — Authorities are dropping charges against all but one of the 18 firefighters arrested after a raucous protest at the World Trade Center site, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said today. The firefighters were arrested after five police officers were injured during a Nov. 2 rally, in which firefighters protested their numbers being reduced at the site. The one case that will not be dropped involved a firefighter accused of hitting a police officer, Giuliani said at a late-afternoon City Hall press conference. That firefighter's identity was not immediately known. The other cases mostly involved criminal trespassing and harassment, the mayor said. Giuliani said he came to the decision in part after meeting with some families of firefighters killed in the disaster. "What happened at ground zero . . . is unacceptable. I am very, very hopeful it will not happen again," said Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor who said he is generally opposed to dropping charges in criminal cases. "But we want to be able to put this behind us, so we can move ahead." Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said the charges would be dismissed and would not appear on the firefighters' records. Morganthau said he made the decision "in light of the extraordinary heroism of the firefighters and police department members at ground zero, and the stress on the families, particularly on the widows and children." The charges are expected to be dropped on Tuesday; courts are closed Monday because of the Veterans Day holiday. Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who had been incensed over the scene of firefighters clashing with police officers, took a conciliatory tone on today. "We saw firefighters and police officers working side by side day and night and they have been doing so for several weeks in an attempt to either rescue or recover members of our respective departments," he said, standing alongside Giuliani, Morgenthau and Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen. "We should really work on continuing that camaraderie and working together and so I think this may be a solution to getting them back on track, relieving some of the emotional issues." Citing safety concerns, Giuliani had sought to scale back the number of firefighters working at ground zero to 25, angering rank-and-file still traumatized by the loss of 343 colleagues on Sept. 11. Many of the firefighters' bodies still have not been recovered. The number of firefighters working there was increased to 50 on Thursday. "This time, this eight weeks has really caught up to a lot of people," Von Essen said. "I'm just glad that the police and the district attorney and the mayor have agreed to at least make these go away and start trying to get this situation back to normal." Tom Butler, a spokesman for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said the union supported the move. "We do feel the dropping of charges is the right thing to do," he said. —The Associated Press
12 N.Y. Port Workers Charged With Cheating Red Cross
N E W Y O R K, Nov. 9 — A dozen people who claimed they needed help because of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks were charged with stealing money from the American Red Cross.
The employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey received a total of about $14,000 in emergency cash or checks for things like groceries, transportation or rent, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
The employees, who worked at the Port Authority's cafeteria at the trade center, all escaped safely Sept. 11.
Morgenthau said the defendants went to a Red Cross disaster center and said they were left unemployed by the attacks and needed financial help.
The workers never lost any pay and were still employed by the Port Authority, Morgenthau said.
The 12 have been suspended from their jobs.
—The Associated Press
Cops Can Tap Inmate-Lawyer Conversations
W A S H I N G T O N, Nov. 9 — The government has implemented a rule that would allow prisons to monitor phone calls and mail between inmates and their lawyers.
The rule published last month in the Federal Register says the monitoring can take place when the attorney general concludes there is "reasonable suspicion" that the communications are designed to further terrorist acts.
The rule says it had to be implemented without public comment to make sure the Justice Department could respond to threats to national security.
The American Civil Liberties Union is criticizing the change.
ACLU Director Laura Murphy says the proposal is "a terrifying nightmare" for innocent people.
Lawyers also have trouble with it.
Former prosecutor Lawrence Barcella says it's "beyond troubling" because the attorney-client relationship is constitutionally protected.
—The Associated Press
Celebs Cut Commercials for Big Apple
Celebrities star in TV ad campaign to boost New York City tourism
N E W Y O R K, Nov. 8 — Woody Allen does a triple lutz on the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. A hip-shaking Barbara Walters sings off-key while auditioning for a Broadway show. Henry Kissinger, wearing his trademark dark suit, slides clumsily into home plate at Yankee Stadium.
Those celebrities are among a group of quintessential New York personalities who taped a series of six television advertisements in which they are seen doing things that, well, they aren't very good at.
The ads, which were previewed Thursday at City Hall, will air nationally to boost the city's tourism industry, which has been hurt by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
"New Yorkers have proudly displayed their indomitable spirit during this difficult time by resuming their lives with a sense of purpose, confidence and determination — and, of course, with humor," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.
Other ads feature Billy Crystal dressed as a turkey, and Robert DeNiro in a pilgrim outfit for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; and former baseball great Yogi Berra in a tuxedo conducting the New York Philharmonic.
"Who," he asks, "is Phil Harmonic?"
—The Associated Press
Legal Aid Donations Criticized Over Terror-Sweep Clients
W A S H I N G T O N, Nov. 9 — A conservative legal group said Thursday that the United Way should take back a $171,000 donation to an organization that is representing several detainees in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.
Officials from the Legal Aid Society and the United Way's Sept. 11 Fund said none of the restricted grant is paying for work on the detainees cases, and is going entirely to help victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
A spokesman for the fund, Jeanine Moss, said the charity had no plans to rescind the grant, but would ask Legal Aid and other recipients for an accounting of how grants are being spent.
The National Legal and Policy Center believes donors would not want their money supporting the Legal Aid Society, which is representing several of the detainees being held on immigration charges and also is helping them find permanent counsel.
"They did not contribute to help the terrorists, their supporters or people arrested or detained because they violated immigration laws," the group wrote the United Way of New York.
Also Thursday, the American Red Cross said it would poll donors to see how they understood their contributions to the charity's Liberty Fund would be used. The charity has been under fire for not funneling enough of the $564 million raised by the fund to attack victims and their families.
"We are reviewing our messages and we are reviewing the donor's understanding of what our messages were … to make sure we're all on the same page together," Red Cross official Michael Farley said.
—The Associated Press