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Tensions grow among lawmakers of color over Gov. Cuomo’s fate

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Tensions are bubbling in Albany among lawmakers of color over just what to do with Gov. Cuomo.

On the one side are younger, more progressive members demanding the governor’s resignation. They have a powerful ally in Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. On the other side are establishment, Cuomo-friendly lawmakers who have urged holding off until a probe by Attorney General Letitia James is complete.

That rift was on full display earlier this month during a weekly Zoom conference call of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus. Legislative leaders Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie do not generally attend the rank-and-file Monday meetings.

During the March 8 meeting shortly after Stewart-Cousins publicly called on Cuomo to resign, the group’s first vice chairwoman, Brooklyn Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, told members that the state Senate boss was only pushing the resignation as a way to advance her own career, according to two lawmakers familiar with the accusation.

“I was offended and I thought it was a highly inappropriate thing to say because that plays right into the governor’s claim that it’s all politically motivated,” one attendee told The Post.

State Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins
State Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins
Tamara Beckwith/ NYPOST

Yet Walker’s remark generated no pushback from the 20 to 40 lawmakers in attendance that day, said the attendee.

Walker did not deny making the accusation.

“Andrea Stewart-Cousins has had a very important career as the first African American woman to lead the New York State Senate,” Walker’s office told The Post. “I believe that Tish James and the Judiciary Committee must complete their investigation before any decisions can be made.”

Assembly Speaker Heastie has attempted to play both sides of the fence, originally echoing the “sentiment” of Stewart-Cousins’ resignation plea and calling on Cuomo “to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.” Yet his Assembly impeachment probe has been mired by accusations that it is unfairly tilted in Cuomo’s favor. He’s been accused of deliberately dragging out the probe, and the selection of Davis Polk & Wardwell, a law firm with close ties to Cuomo, to oversee the inquiry, has also raised eyebrows.

Walker, meanwhile, is close to James, who has been described as her political mentor. Walker served as treasurer to James’ 2013 campaign for public advocate and James returned the favor by endorsing Walker for her 2015 run for the Assembly. James is godmother to Walker’s daughter, according to City and State.

Walker also signed a letter along with 21 other lawmakers urging people to wait until the completion of James’ investigation. The signees included prominent Black legislators Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, Vivian E. Cook and Kimberly Jean-Pierre, among others.

One state senator told The Post that most of the Democrats in the chamber already see Cuomo as dead in the water, and lawmakers are now competing to fill the coming power void in Albany.

James, 62, and Stewart-Cousins, 70, are both eyeing higher office and the Senate leader has also been making moves to undermine James, said one Senate insider.

In her March 7 call for Cuomo’s resignation, Stewart-Cousins raised “questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project.” This was a reference to an Albany Times-Union investigation which broke that same day revealing a coverup of deficiencies within the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. James’ office’s initial probe of the matter made “an effort to arguably downplay the severity of the allegations, including any potential structural threat to the bridge,” the paper reported.

Latrice Walker, NY State Assemblywoman, 55th District, left, with Mark O'Luck, CEO Spectrum Personal Communications Corp. on Feb. 16, 2019.
Latrice Walker, NY State Assemblywoman, 55th District, left, with Mark O’Luck, CEO Spectrum Personal Communications Corp. on Feb. 16, 2019.
Angel Chevrestt

“Andrea was in a conversation with a labor leader where she said that she believes she has a more progressive record than Letitia James, that she has never caved to the governor in the way Tish has and that she should be the first Black female governor,” said the same insider.

One Democratic senator said all their members were “being placed in very awkward positions” and that members “have to be very careful what we say” when the topic of Cuomo comes up.

Publicly, James and Stewart-Cousins have been chummy, basking in their respective accomplishments as the first Black women to serve in their current roles.

“Attorney General Tish James is an unyielding public servant and proven champion of justice. It’s not surprising, but still pathetic, that there are those who attempt to push an offensive narrative to pit powerful women against one another for their own agenda and to mask their sad insecurities,” Stewart-Cousins told The Post.

In a statement from her office, James said she had “the utmost respect” for Stewart-Cousins and that she “look[ed] forward to continuing their work together for years to come.”

“You’re always going to have competition among political people when there is an opening — and governor jobs don’t open that often,” said Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “They all smile in public but the knife is always poised in hand.”





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Alleged NYC Capitol rioter wanted to be ‘where the action was’

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An alleged rioter from Brooklyn surrendered to the FBI Tuesday morning after telling investigators he breached the US Capitol because he wanted to be “where the action was,” court papers allege.

A tipster identified Dovid Schwartzberg in photos and video wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap and black face mask tucked under his chin during the Jan. 6 siege that left five dead.



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Derek Chauvin found guilty of all charges in murder of George Floyd

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Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of all charges in the murder of George Floyd.


What You Need To Know

    • Former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty in the murder of George Floyd
    • Chauvin faces up to 75 years in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter
    • Floyd, 46, died in May 2020 when police tried to arrest him on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store
  • Floyd died as Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the Black man was pinned to the pavement and handcuffed after struggling with officers in the back seat of a squad car

Chauvin, 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

He faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to a decade for second-degree manslaughter – up to 75 years in all.

Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks, and his bail has been revoked. The ex-cop was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs.

Floyd, 46, died in May 2020 when police tried to arrest him on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store. Floyd died as Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the Black man was pinned to the pavement and handcuffed after struggling with officers in the back seat of a squad car.

Floyd repeatedly cried that he couldn’t breathe as concerned onlookers shouted for Chauvin to stop and took cellphone video that would help spark a wave of widespread protests and unrest last summer.

Prosecutors argued that Floyd was not a threat to anyone and that Chauvin did not follow his training by using such force on Floyd. The officer “had to know” that kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds would kill him, prosecutor Steve Schleicher said during closing arguments Monday.

“He wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. He wasn’t trying to do anything to anyone,” Schleicher said of Floyd. “Facing George Floyd that day that did not require one ounce of courage. And none was shown on that day. No courage was required. All that was required was a little compassion and none was shown on that day.”

The prosecution’s parade of witnesses included eyewitnesses as well as current and former police officers. Minneapolis’ police chief and a former supervisory sergeant both testified the Chauvin could have ended his restraint of his Floyd after the suspect stopped resisting.

The defense tried to convince jurors that Floyd’s illicit drug use and existing heart disease were the causes of his death, not Chauvin’s knee upon his neck. Chauvin’s lawyer attorney Eric Nelson also argued that his client used a reasonable amount of force to restrain Floyd.

“The futility of their efforts became apparent — they weren’t able to get him into the car,” Nelson said during his closing arguments. “Three Minneapolis police officers were unable to get Mr. Floyd into the car.”

In a statement, Floyd’s legal team, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and his co-council, called the verdict “painfully earned justice for the Floyd family and community.”

Lawmakers also offered their reactions following the guilty verdict.

“This guilty verdict serves as an official proclamation of what so many of us have known for nearly a year: George Floyd was murdered by an officer who was sworn to protect and serve,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “However, we should not mistake a guilty verdict in this case as evidence that the persistent problem of police misconduct has been solved or that the divide between law enforcement and so many of the communities they serve has been bridged.”

“We must remain diligent in our efforts to bring meaningful change to police departments across the country,” he added. “The Senate will continue that work as we strive to ensure George Floyd’s tragic death will not be in vain.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the verdict “a step in the right direction for justice” at a press conference with members of Democratic House leadership and the Congressional Black Caucus.

“This is just the first step,” CBC chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) said. “We know that there are still the mothers, the families, the children who are shedding tears today because a verdict will not bring back their family members.”

“We are hopeful today will be the catalyst to turn the pain, agony, the justice delayed into action,” Beatty added.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, said in a statement that “there is no question in my mind that the jury reached the right verdict.”

“The jury’s verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd,” progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said in a statement. “Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person.”

“The trauma and tragedy of George Floyd’s murder must never leave us,” Sanders added. “It was a manifestation of a system that callously devalues the lives of Black people. Our struggle now is about justice — not justice on paper, but real justice in which all Americans live their lives free of oppression. We must boldly root out the cancer of systemic racism and police violence against people of color.”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will address the nation later Tuesday evening, according to the White House.

“The President and the Vice President watched the verdict with staff in the Private Dining Room,” according to the pool. “Following the announcement of the verdict, the President spoke with Governor Tim Walz. The President, the Vice President, & the First Lady spoke with Philonise Floyd”

“True justice for George only comes through real, systemic change to prevent this from happening again,” he added.

Dozens of people gathered outside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis to hear the verdict. When it was read, the crowd erupted in a mix of cheers and tears.

Outside of the Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered last year, bystanders began throwing dollar bills in celebration. Some people brought flowers, laying them on the ground where Floyd took his final breaths. Others prayed next to paintings and images of Floyd, honoring a life cut short.

Many seemed to be in a state of shock, saying they couldn’t believe a police officer was convicted for murdering a Black person.

But the overwhelming feeling across the city was one of joy. Chants of “Justice!” and “Black lives matter” rang out across Minneapolis, from George Floyd Square to the steps of the Hennepin county courthouse.



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To curb gun violence, de Blasio goes to last year’s failed NYPD plan

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Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to curb the surging gun violence in NYC is to try out the failed policing strategy from last year — but this time, with 100 fewer cops.

The NYPD will reassign 200 cops to areas where the Big Apple has seen the highest rates of gun violence as part of their annual Summer All Out program, the mayor said Tuesday.

NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said the “bulk” of those cops would be moved to East New York and Brownsville, which have seen gun violence upticks of 67% and 88%, respectively.

He also noted Bronx neighborhoods, Mott Haven, Highbridge and Crotona, would get some additional patrols.

But all of those areas were also a policing focus last year during the summer when the city saw a months-long surge in gun violence and assigned 300 cops to the “Summer All Out” initiative.

Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference on April 19, 2021.
Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference on April 19, 2021.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

“We’re going to make sure that the officers are where we need them to be and we’ll make adjustments constantly,” de Blasio said when asked about the similarities to last year’s plan, which failed to combat the surge in gunplay.

De Blasio chalked up 2020’s skyrocketing shooting totals to the effect the pandemic had on the city.

“Last year again. Perfect Storm. Literal Perfect Storm. Global pandemic. Society shut down, a million jobs lost… everything went wrong simultaneously,” the mayor said, brushing off any comparison to this year.

Yet, gunplay in New York City still continues the 2020 trend — outpacing the year prior each week.

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The mayor’s office also announced gun buyback programs, “Saturday Night Lights” games, the fixing up of 15 basketball courts and anti-violence fairs to help slow the number of shootings.

The NYPD tried all those strategies last year too.

The city will double its Cure Violence workforce and Summer Youth Anti-Violence employment slots, expand gang-free zones to parks and double the tip reward to $5,000.



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