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Former Madoff employee gets sentence of 2.5 years

On Dec. 10, a 48-year-old man was the fourth former employee of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. to be convicted and sentenced on securities fraud charges and conspiracy. The man worked as a computer programmer from 1991 to 2008, an era of Madoff's Ponzi scheme that cost investors billions.

The programmer received a 2.5-year sentence after being found guilty by a Manhattan federal jury in early 2014. This was also six years and one day after Madoff's initial arrest; Madoff himself is currently serving a 150-year prison term.

First-degree murder penalties

New York law categorizes murder as one of the most serious crimes a person can commit. In accordance with this stance, the punishments for first-degree murder are among the most strict that can be handed down by the court. Not all first-degree murder cases are handled in the same way, and not all of these cases may result in identical sentences. The actual circumstances of each particular case can have a profound impact on the way that the sentence is carried out.

Murder is one of the few crimes that can be legally punished by death. New York law allows for a sentence of death to be declared in certain cases. According to the New York penal code, a person who intentionally kills another person or kills a peace officer or correctional officer may be convicted of murder in the first degree. A conviction on this charge can be punished with a sentence of death or a lifetime term of incarceration without the possibility of parole.

What is involved in a Ponzi scheme?

Individuals in New York may have heard of Ponzi schemes. A Ponzi scheme is an illegal investment scheme in which money is generated from new investors. It is named for a man named Charles Ponzi who ran a fraudulent investment scheme in New England in the 1920s related to postage stamp speculation. Ponzi told investors they would get a 50 percent return after 90 days. After first supporting his scheme with international mail coupons, he then turned to using the funds of new investors to pay longer-term investors in the way that Ponzi schemes are known for today.

A Ponzi scheme eventually comes to an end when many investors want to cash out at the same time or it becomes difficult to find new investors, meaning money ceases to be generated. Ponzi schemes are characterized by a few things that they have in common, such as sellers who are unlicensed and investments that are unregistered, returns that show little to no fluctuation, issues with paperwork or receipt of payments, the promise of risk-free, high returns, and strategies that are complex and difficult to understand.

Prior convictions play controversial role in sentencing

Prior convictions are playing a central and controversial role in the sentencing of a New York man who was convicted on a number of narcotics and robbery charges. The outcome of the man's case could influence the way prior convictions are handled in other federal criminal prosecutions. The controversy has to do with the federal prosecutors' use of 851 enhancements, which tack on time to sentences based on prior convictions. The enhancements are meant to punish repeat offenders, but critics say they're used to bully defendants into guilty pleas.

The 27-year-old New York man was offered 10-year sentence in 2012 in exchange for a guilty plea in his case. Prosecutors allegedly told him that if he didn't accept the deal and was found guilty at trial, they would use 851 enhancements to lengthen his sentence. He was found guilty, and prosecutors used the enhancement to tack on an additional 10 years to his 40-plus year minimum sentence.

Allegedly drunk driver charged after falling asleep

According to authorities, an alleged drunk driver fell asleep while driving in Staten Island on the West Shore Expressway around 2:10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The driver, a 39-year-old Allentown, Pennsylvania, man, was apparently in the New Jersey-bound lanes when he fell asleep while in backed-up traffic.

Law enforcement authorities reported that when traffic began moving, the man's van remained stationary, forcing other vehicles to navigate around him as they proceeded on. When police responded, they allegedly found the man sound asleep with an open beer can sitting in his cup holder.

Field Sobriety Testing

Any New York resident who drives regularly may be curious about how police test drivers to determine whether they are driving under the influence. There are three tests recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which measure the driver's responses to stimulus and ability to follow instructions. Each test is intended to be something that a sober person could pass.

The first test used to check for drunk driving is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This test looks at the angles that the driver's eyes move. It also measures the driver's ability to focus on a moving object, such as following the officer's finger as it is moved back and forth.

What are the different alcohol/drug-related violations?

Like other states, New York takes intoxicated driving very seriously. The penalties for the different alcohol- and drug-related offenses, however, vary widely in severity depending upon a number of different factors, including the amount of alcohol or drugs in the accused person's system and whether or not he or she has prior drug or alcohol convictions.

Someone whose blood alcohol level is determined to be .08 percent or greater may face a DWI, or driving while intoxicated, charge. If the person's BAC is .18 percent or higher, the severity of the charge increases to aggravated driving while intoxicated, which carries much heavier penalties. While the legal limit for alcohol consumption and driving is .08 percent, a driver can be deemed to be impaired by alcohol if their BAC is between .05 percent and .07 percent. Those who are younger than 21, which is the legal age to drink alcohol in the U.S., and who drive with a BAC between .02 percent and .07 percent may be charged under the state's zero-tolerance law.

New York City police charge reality TV star with drunk driving

Police in New York City have reported that reality television star Buddy Valastro was taken into custody in the early morning hours of Nov. 13 on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Valastro did not enter a plea to drunk driving charges at an arraignment hearing later in the day, and he was subsequently released. The New Jersey resident shot to fame as the star of the reality television show 'Cake Boss," which follows events at his Hoboken bakery.

According to an NYPD report, the television star's sports car was pulled over by officers after it was observed being driven erratically in Manhattans Hell's Kitchen neighborhood at approximately 12:30 a.m. Officers say that the yellow Chevrolet Corvette was weaving between traffic lanes near 10th Avenue.

2 men arrested on drug charges in New York

Two men in New York were arrested for drug possession after they were pulled over for a routine traffic stop on Nov. 13. State police pulled a pickup truck over on Evergreen Street in Lancaster for failure to use a turn signal and driving with no license plate lamp. A 30-year-old former substitute teacher was driving, and a 20-year-old man was riding as a passenger. According to police, the driver claimed to be a substitute teacher and wrestling coach at Rush-Henrietta School District.

Records show that the driver worked for the district at least a month before this incident occurred. The district claims that the driver was employed as a junior varsity coach up until the previous year, and then as a substitute teacher on occasion. Following the incident, the district informed local reporters that the man is no longer included on their list of substitutes. Both the driver and passenger were charged with drug possession and intent to sell.

NY troopers allege man tried to eat BAC results

A man who had already been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated reportedly was arrested on additional charges after he reportedly attempted to eat his Breathalyzer results. According to state troopers, the incident occurred at the state police barracks located in Tarrytown on Nov. 2.

According to reports, officers had stopped the man while he was driving on Interstate 95 around 5:30 a.m. The troopers originally pulled him over for allegedly speeding. When they began talking with the man, they believed he was possibly intoxicated and placed him under arrest.