Former N.Y. state champion girls basketball coach charged with Sexual Assault of student
New York – A paraprofessional at Edison Career and Technology High School has been charged with sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child involving an incident with an East High School student in 2015.
Mariano Velazquez, 51, of Rochester was a paraprofessional and athletic coach at East at the time of the alleged incident, according to a release from police.
A letter from Edison to families of the school said Velazquez was suspended when the allegations first surfaced in early 2015, but “the allegations could not be proved and he was allowed to return to work.”
In the past two weeks, new information was brought to police that led to Velazquez’ arrest and days later he was placed on leave and “will not be allowed to have contact with students in any district school until this legal matter is resolved,” the letter reads.
Velazquez is the former girls varsity basketball coach at East. He was named All-Greater Rochester coach of the year after leading his team to the state championship in 2012.
“We have no reason to believe that inappropriate activity occurred on school property or that other students were involved,” reads the letter from Principal Walter Larkin and School Chief of Secondary Schools Amy Schiavi. “However, if you or your child have information relevant to Mr. Velazquez or this case, please call 911 and speak with the police.
“We regret having to share this news, which creates a painful situation for the student and family involved. We ask our entire community to respect their privacy as we allow the justice system to run its course.”
Murder, Attempted Murder Charges Filed in
Ambush Shootings of Palm Springs Officers
Palm Springs, CA – Murder and attempted murder charges were filed Wednesday morning against a man who was armed with an assault rifle when he allegedly opened fire on Palm Springs police officers as they responded to a domestic disturbance call.
Prosecutors announced the charges Wednesday against John Felix, 26. He was arrested following a standoff after the shooting deaths Saturday of longtime officer Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega, 63, and a rookie member of the force, 27-year-old Lesley Zerebny. Other felony charges also were filed, including three attempted murder charges stemming from allegations that the suspect tried to gun down other officers.
One of those three officers suffered a gunshot wound and was released from the hospital earlier this week.
Felix also faces charges of unlawfully possessing an assault weapon, being a felon in possession of an assault weapon, unlawfully possessing ammunition and possessing stolen property — the weapon used in the shooting.
Felix used an assault rifle with armor-piercing rounds to kill the two officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance call at the California home of the suspect’s family, authorities said Tuesday. The officers were wearing ballistic vests as required when they are in uniform and on duty.
“This individual wanted to kill police officers,” said Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin. “He armed himself with a weapon to kill police officers. He put on a vest, so that he would be protected so that he could kill police officers. That’s the motive, he wanted to gun down police officers because they wore the uniform.
Felix was prohibited from legally possessing firearms because of a prior felony conviction, the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. Felix served 18 months of a four-year sentence for assault with a gun in connection with a 2009 gang shooting. He was paroled in 2011, according to state records.
“There’s an element in our society that’s bent on killing police officers because they represent law and order,” Hestrin said. “I think it’s time that everybody in law enforcement and the public spoke up against that. It’s time we acknowledge that our police officers are the only thing, only people keeping us safe on the streets. The kind of sacrifice and commitment they give day in and day out, we ought to be thanking those people patrolling our streets to keep us safe.”
Police officers arriving at the Palm Springs home on Saturday were told by a relative that Felix had a weapon, later determined to be the assault rifle. Officers spoke with Felix through a metal screen door before he opened fire without warning, the statement said.
Authorities declined to release a 911 recording alerting police about a problem or say who made the call.
The standoff lasted about 12 hours before Feliz was taken into custody outside the home.
The charges could land Felix on death row, but the district attorney said no decision has been reached on what penalty prosecutors plan to seek.
“We go about gathering evidence that’s used in that determination, and that includes everything. We want to know everything there is to know about this individual — his background, where he grew up, everything,” said Hestrin. “And so, it’s an exhaustive investigation. So we’re not ready to make that decision, however, I will be making that decision within three weeks.”
In an interview with NBC4 earlier this week, Zerebny’s parents said they would like to seek prosecutors pursue the death penalty.
Arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.
Vega was a 35-year veteran of the force who was preparing to retire soon. Zerebny had been with the department about 18 months and her husband is a sheriff’s deputy. The couple has a 4-month old daughter.
Zerebny’s father also was a law enforcement veteran who served for 30 years with the California Highway Patrol. He pinned his daughter’s badge on her uniform at a ceremony when she joined the Palm Springs Police Department.
A public memorial is scheduled for Oct. 18 in the desert resort town of 45,000 people about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.
Palm Springs had not lost an officer in the line of duty since 1962, when Officer Lyle Wayne Larrabee died during a vehicle pursuit. Officer Gale Gene Eldridge was fatally shot Jan. 18, 1961, while investigating an armed robbery.
Arrest of Backpage.com CEO Shows Texas Doesn’t Tolerate Human Trafficking
AUSTIN, TX – In his office’s continued effort to combat human trafficking, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced the arrest of Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com, a notorious adult website that generates millions of dollars annually from its classified sex ads.
Ferrer, 55, was taken into custody this afternoon on a California arrest warrant after he arrived in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. A lengthy joint investigation by the offices of the Texas and California attorneys general uncovered evidence that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appeared repeatedly on Backpage.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Nearly three dozen members of the Texas Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Unit participated in Ferrer’s arrest and the execution of a search warrant on the Dallas headquarters of Backpage, which is considered the largest advertiser of adult escort services in the United States.
Last January, Attorney General Paxton launched his office’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime (HTTOC) unit, which works closely with prosecutors around the state to bring human traffickers to justice. Recently, HTTOC helped the Nueces County district attorney’s office secure a 40-year sentence for the trafficker of a 15-year-old victim.
TX AG’s Criminal Investigations Division Helps Put Child Predator Away for Life
AUSTIN, TX – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced the successful conviction of John David Payne, 37, to life in prison for Online Solicitation of a Minor in Montgomery County.
The conviction stems from undercover operations conducted by the Conroe Police Department, the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and testimony from the Texas attorney general’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID).
Payne arranged to meet with a person he thought to be a 14-year-old girl and upon arrival to the meeting location, Montgomery Country Constable Precinct 4 – Special Response Team took Payne into custody. CID investigators testified during the punishment phase of Payne’s trial that Payne had a pattern of soliciting sex from minors online. In 2005, CID arrested Payne on charges of Online Solicitation of a Minor after they conducted undercover operations.
The Office of the Attorney General works to protect children by using the latest technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil predators online. The Child Exploitation Unit proactively seeks out and arrests predators who commit crimes against children using technology and online sources. Attorney General Paxton urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks our children face on the internet and take steps to help ensure their children’s safety. For more information on cyber safety, please visit: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cj/cyber-safety