New York Hanukkah machete attack suspect to face federal hate crime charges

(Reuters) – The man accused of stabbing at least five people in a machete rampage at the home of a Hasidic rabbi during a Hanukkah celebration is due to face federal hate crime charges in White Plains, New York, on Monday.

A federal grand jury indicted Grafton Thomas, 37, late last week with additional counts of hate crimes for the Dec. 28 stabbing of members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey, New York, bringing the number of federal charges he faces to 10.

Each count carries a maximum prison term of life.

One of the victims, a 72-year-old man who suffered devastating machete blows to his head, arm and neck, is comatose and unlikely to recover, according to family members.

Federal prosecutors have said Thomas targeted his victims because of their Jewish faith. In a criminal complaint filed last month, they cited journals they seized from the suspect’s home containing references to Adolf Hitler, Nazi culture and the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, identified by experts in extremism as an anti-Jewish hate group.

Thomas also faces state charges for the attack, which his attorney, pointing to his client’s long history of mental illness, has said was likely an expression of psychosis rather than bigotry.

The attack in Monsey capped a string of incidents in which Jews have been physically attacked or accosted in the New York metropolitan area in recent weeks, including a shooting at a kosher supermarket in New Jersey that left two members of the Hasidic community dead.

One of the suspects in that attack had also expressed interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites. He died in the attack.

The most recent national numbers from Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found 780 anti-Semitic incidents reported to or detected by the organization in the United States in the first half of 2019, compared to 785 incidents reported for the same period in 2018.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Scott Malone and Tom Brown)

Murders in New York City rose in 2019, defying long-term decline in crime rate

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York experienced a 7.8 percent jump in murders last year, though the number of homicides in the country’s largest city remained low on an historical basis as the overall major crime rate extended a decades-long drop, authorities said on Monday.

The number of murders rose in 2019 to 318, the most since 2016, the New York Police Department said in its annual crime statistics report. Robberies, felony assaults and shootings also rose modestly in 2019, while the number of rapes and subway crimes declined.

Officials said most of last year’s increase in murders and shootings was the result of statistical fluctuations, reflecting in part the reclassification of more than two dozen homicides, some of which occurred in other years.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted that the downward trend in the city’s crime rate was irreversible.

“Not only are we going to sustain that progress, we’re going to build upon that progress, and we are never going back to the years when this city wasn’t safe,” he told more than 500 recruits at the city’s police academy.

The overall rate of major felony crimes dropped again in keeping with a long-term trend, slipping 0.9% last year to a record-low of about 95,500 incidents, the report said. Burglary and grand larceny accounted for more than half of the total.

Since 1990, major crimes have fallen 81.9% in a period that spanned the administrations of four mayors, both Republican and Democratic, including Michael Bloomberg, who switched from being a Republican to an independent during his three terms in office.

Despite last year’s jump, murders were still 85.9% below 1990 levels.

The declining crime rate and expectations that it will continue figured prominently in de Blasio’s decision nearly two years ago to close the troubled Rikers Island jail complex within 10 years.

Bucking the downward trend was a jump in hate crimes last year, led by a surge in anti-Semitic incidents, which rose 26%. About three-quarters of the incidents involved graffiti, usually painting swastikas on the walls of buildings and vehicles, officials said.

The number of reported rapes, which had soared by 24% in 2018, declined by 2.5% last year to 1,760. The NYPD had attributed the 2018 increase mostly to heightened awareness and a higher reporting rate inspired by the #MeToo movement. Since 1990, rapes were down by 43.7%.

Crime in the city’s subway system and on buses declined by 3.4% in 2019, after a modest increase a year earlier.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty)

Suspect in knife rampage at rabbi’s home appears to have acted alone: New York police

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An assailant who stabbed five people attending a party at an Hasidic rabbi’s home in what New York’s governor called an act of domestic terrorism appears to have been acting alone, police said on Sunday.

Grafton Thomas, 37, is accused of attempted murder after bursting in to the Hanukkah celebration on Saturday night in Rockland County, about 30 miles (48 km) north of New York City. Police said he fled and was later arrested in Manhattan by two officers who were on the lookout for his car.

“We have nothing to indicate at this time that there were other people (involved), but that will be part of a very lengthy, very methodical and thorough investigation,” New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city leaders, Shea said that the suspect said “almost nothing” to the young officers who took him into custody at gunpoint after stopping him in Harlem. Shea declined to say whether Thomas had previously been on the department’s radar.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the attack in the small town of Monsey, which followed days of anti-Semitic incidents in the New York City area, was an act of domestic terrorism.

“These are people who intend to create mass harm, mass violence, generate fear based on race, color, creed,” Cuomo told reporters after meeting with some of the victims.

President Donald Trump called it an horrific attack.

“We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Thomas, from Greenwood Lake, New York, is due to return to court in the town of Ramapo on Jan. 3 after he was arraigned on Sunday on five counts of attempted murder and ordered held on $5 million bail.

ORTHODOX ENCLAVE

According to Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, the attacker had his face partially covered with a scarf when he stabbed five people, two of whom were in critical condition.

“One of the rabbi’s children was also stabbed,” Gestetner told reporters.

One witness who was at the rabbi’s home said he began praying for his life when he saw the assailant remove a large knife from a case.

“It was about the size of a broomstick,” Aron Kohn told the New York Times.

Roughly a third of the population of Rockland County is Jewish, including a large enclave of Orthodox Jews who live in secluded communities.

Another attack took place in Monsey in November when a man walking to a synagogue was stabbed multiple times, according to media reports.

The attack on the party, which was attended by dozens of people, followed a spate of anti-Semitic attacks in New York City and surrounding areas.

New York City’s police department said on Friday it was stepping up patrols in heavily Jewish neighborhoods.

Shea told Sunday’s news conference there had been a 21% increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city this year.

‘VICIOUS ATTACK’

Saturday’s violence in Rockland County was at least the 10th anti-Semitic incident in the New York and New Jersey area in the last week, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization.

They included a 65-year-old man who was reportedly punched and kicked by an assailant yelling an anti-Semitic slur in Manhattan on Monday, and attacks on two other men in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Those incidents came after six people were killed during a shooting rampage at a kosher grocery store in northern New Jersey earlier this month.

Earlier this year, a gunman killed a female rabbi and wounded three people during Sabbath services at Congregation Chabad in Poway, near San Diego, on the last day of Passover in April 2019.

Six months before that, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned “recent displays of antisemitism including the vicious attack at the home of a rabbi in Monsey,” at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the 2nd century B.C. victory of Judah Maccabee and his followers in a revolt against armies of the Seleucid Empire.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council posted video on social media that showed the rabbi in Monsey and his followers continuing their celebrations at the synagogue next door, after the attack in his home.

It gave a rough translation of the lyrics they sang: “The grace of God did not end and his mercy did not leave us.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Additional reporting by Steve Holland in West Palm Beach and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

U.S. bishop accused of sex abuse cover-up steps down

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A New York state bishop who had been at the center of a sex abuse crisis stepped down on Wednesday after learning the conclusions of a Vatican investigation, becoming the latest high-ranking prelate toppled by the decades-old scandal.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York, and named Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, to administer the Buffalo diocese until a new bishop can be appointed.

Malone, 73, who has been under pressure to resign for years, stepped down two years before bishops’ normal retirement date.

A long line of priests and bishops have been toppled by the Roman Catholic Church’s abuse crisis, which exploded onto the international stage in 2002 when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed priests had sexually abused children for decades and church leaders had covered it up.

Patterns of widespread abuse of children have since been reported across the United States and Europe, in Chile and Australia, undercutting the 1.2 billion-member Church’s moral authority and taking a toll on its membership and coffers.

Malone, who met with the pope last month, has been accused of covering up or mishandling the abuse of dozens of minors by priests in his diocese in western New York.

Last year, a whistleblower in his office released documents to WKBW, a New York news channel, indicating that Malone withheld scores of priests’ names from a list his office published of clergy accused of sexual abuse.

He has denied the accusations.

His diocese is facing more than 200 child sex abuse lawsuits, according to the New York Times. A new state law this year temporarily waived statutes of limitations for people who were victims of sexual abuse as children, allowing hundreds of people to sue over decades-old crimes.

Malone acknowledged “tremendous turmoil” in his diocese in a statement on Wednesday.

He said he had made mistakes in not addressing what he described as personnel issues more swiftly. He said the conclusions of the Vatican investigation, which have not been published, were a factor in his decision but that he was resigning “freely and voluntarily.”

In September, a poll by the local newspaper, The Buffalo News, showed that about 85% of Roman Catholics or lapsed Roman Catholics in the area said he should resign.

Scharfenberger said he supported Malone’s resignation.

“I think he made a prudent decision to withdraw as he did at the time that he did,” he said in a news conference.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Scott Malone)

Thanksgiving leftovers: Storm serves U.S. Northeast second helping of snow

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A vast wintry storm that has been raging across the United States since before Thanksgiving served a second helping of snow to the Northeast on Monday, closing offices and threatening to disrupt the evening rush-hour commute.

Alternating rain and snow showers were forecast to switch completely to snow, piling up by the workday’s end to 1 to 3 inches in New York and 4 to 6 inches in Boston, said meteorologist Bob Oravec of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

Heavier snow totals were expected in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, northwestern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, southern Vermont, southern New Hampshire and Maine, with some areas already receiving 1 foot of snow, Oravec said.

“When it’s all said and done, some areas will have over 2 feet of snow from this storm, especially over parts of the Poconos and Catskills,” Oravec said of the mountain regions.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all non-essential state employees in the capital region to stay home on Monday. State offices in New Jersey opened as usual on Monday, but New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said all non-essential workers should head home at noon due to weather conditions.

Travel glitches on U.S. flights began mounting throughout the morning, with most of the 1,500 cancellations and delays posted by late morning at airports in San Francisco, Albany, Boston, Chicago and Newark.

The storm that started on the West Coast ahead of Thanksgiving, the busiest U.S. travel holiday, slowly rolled across the entire country, drenching some areas with rain, blanketing others with snow and blasting still others with winds. Three tornadoes were reported northwest of Phoenix.

“It’s uncommon to have a tornado in Phoenix, but it’s not uncommon to have multiple types of weather with a big winter storm like that,” Oravec said.

The storm was expected to linger in New York until just before sunrise on Tuesday, in Boston until early Tuesday afternoon and in Maine until Wednesday morning.

“There have been huge impacts from the storm since it occurred during the Thanksgiving week of travel and coming home from the holiday,” Oravec said.

“It hit about possibly the worst time it could hit, and it went right across the entire country.”

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Bronx man, battling own legal woes, brings gun rights case to U.S. Supreme Court

Bronx man, battling own legal woes, brings gun rights case to U.S. Supreme Court
By Andrew Chung

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two weeks before Efrain Alvarez and his attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their challenge to a New York City regulation that limited where licensed handgun owners could transport their weapons, police officers showed up at his Bronx apartment and took away all his firearms.

The officers walked past the bullet-making equipment in his cluttered entranceway and past the trophy deer head hanging on his living room wall. From two imposing steel vaults in the back bedroom, they confiscated around 45 firearms, including five handguns.

“I’m still numb about it,” the 64-year-old retired city bus driver said of the August 2018 seizure. “It’s my lifelong collection.”

The officers arrested Alvarez, and he was charged with filing a false police report over a claim that one of his handguns had been stolen, a misdemeanor. As a result, Alvarez said, the very handgun license whose transport restrictions he is challenging has been suspended for the second time this decade.

The legal battle over the New York measure is the biggest gun rights case at the Supreme Court since 2010, with the justices set to hear arguments next Monday. The challenge is backed by the National Rifle Association, an influential gun rights lobby group closely aligned with Republicans including President Donald Trump, a fellow New Yorker.

The regulation restricted transport of handguns by licensed owners to shooting ranges within city limits but allowed hunting during designated seasons. The lawsuit claims the measure violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

After the regulation was amended in July to allow for transporting handguns outside New York City, city officials unsuccessfully asked the Supreme Court to drop the matter and cancel the arguments, asserting that the case was moot.

The state’s NRA affiliate, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, filed the lawsuit in 2013 with Alvarez and two other gun owners as plaintiffs, after authorities told the men that the regulation prevented them from participating at a shooting competition in New Jersey or bringing their guns to second homes elsewhere in the state.

Alvarez said he joined the suit because he thought it was ridiculous that he could own a handgun but not travel to compete with it.

In the lawsuit, he and the two other gun owners are described as “law-abiding residents of New York City.” Alvarez does not think his own legal troubles make it awkward or inappropriate for him to challenge the regulation.

“My suspension has nothing to do with my fight in court,” Alvarez said in an interview.

Alvarez also said he accepted a deal last week offered by the Bronx district attorney’s office to drop the charge in six months if he is not arrested again.

Asked about Alvarez’s arrest and license suspension, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Brian Stapleton, said it was the first he had heard of it.

“It has no impact on this case whatsoever,” Stapleton said.

Describing himself as a supporter of gun control measures like strong background checks, Alvarez said he hopes the ruling in his case does not undermine other firearms restrictions.

“If a bad apple grabs a gun and he does something stupid, it kind of falls on me because I’m part of what’s going on. So it would kind of hit a sore spot,” added Alvarez, who said he admires the NRA but disagrees with some of its policies.

SUPREME COURT PRECEDENT

The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower court found that the regulation did not violate the Second Amendment and advanced the city’s interest in protecting public safety.

The Supreme Court in 2008 found for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense. In 2010, the court extended that right to state and local laws as well. But the justices have avoided ruling in a major firearms case since then, leaving open questions such as whether that right extends outside the home.

“I hope that they clarify that the right to posses a firearm outside the home is as important and fundamental as the right to possess one inside the home,” Stapleton said.

Gun control advocates fear that the conservative-majority Supreme Court could use the case to expand gun rights and threaten a wide array of gun control measures nationwide such as expanded background checks and “red flag” laws targeting the firearms of people deemed dangerous by the courts.

“I don’t think there’s any question that, if given the opportunity, the NRA and its allies will try to re-challenge laws that have already been upheld and certainly challenge any new laws,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of litigation at Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control lobby group that receives funding from Democratic presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Born and raised in New York, Alvarez is affable and blunt. He has been a gun enthusiast since serving in the U.S. National Guard decades ago. He said he became an avid hunter and started competitive shooting, winning several awards.

His hobby extends to making bullets, reloading spent casings in a mini-workshop that fills the vestibule of his Bronx apartment. He polishes the casings, melts the lead, pours the molds and sets the bullet heads with a pull of the press.

Alvarez’s August 2018 arrest came after police said he falsely reported a .38 caliber revolver had been stolen by two men he claimed had fooled him by posing as police officers. The saga led police to suspend his handgun license and confiscate his firearms, he said. The New York Police Department declined to discuss Alvarez’s case.

“Everybody who owns a firearm in New York City should have the right to take that firearm to his property, and out of the city to go shooting,” Alvarez’s said. “We’re not looking for anything else as far as I’m concerned.”

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Climate activists block traffic in U.S. capital, chain themselves to sailboat

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Activists seeking to pressure U.S. politicians to fight climate change blocked major traffic hubs in the U.S. capital on Monday – chaining themselves to a sailboat in one location – as they sought to draw attention to a U.N. Climate Summit that will be attended by leaders from about 60 countries.

Those attending the summit in New York will include the leaders of small island states most at risk from rising sea levels and companies expected to make fresh pledges to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

Activists targeted four locations, including Farragut Square in downtown Washington, Columbus Circle, near the Union Station train terminal and at Folger Park on Capitol Hill.

Just north of the White House, at 16th Street and K Street, activists pushed a small sailboat into the middle of the intersection and chained themselves to it. Police arrived with a power saw to free the protesters, draping them with heavy blankets to protect them from flying sparks, and called a truck to haul the boat away.

About 200 protesters chanted nearby: “It’s dire, It’s dire, the house is on fire!”

“I’m fighting for our future because if things continue as they are with fossil fuel extractive industries… increasing greenhouse gases there’s not going to be a good future for anyone,” said Arielle Welch, 23, a volunteer for the Sunrise Movement, a nonprofit group.

The protest, called Shut Down DC, was backed by about two dozen groups, including the Metro D.C. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, Extinction Rebellion D.C. and Black Lives Matter D.C.

Washington metropolitan police said they were equipped to handle a demonstration of any size.

Extinction Rebellion, which says it is backed by hundreds of scientists, promotes non-violent civil disobedience to press governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis it fears will bring starvation and social collapse.

Over 11 days in April, the group disrupted parts of London, stopping trains and defacing the building of energy giant Shell.

Protesters aim to pressure U.S. government employees, who are helping to make Washington an obstacle in international climate negotiations, said Kaela Bamberger, a spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion, D.C.

President Donald Trump, who is not scheduled to attend the U.N. climate meeting and intends to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris accord, has rolled back Obama-era rules on emission cuts and wants to maximize U.S. energy output.

Monday’s protest also seeks to support the strikes of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who traveled to New York in a sailboat and is participating in the U.N. summit.

“I don’t want to be here really, but I have to… I don’t have a choice,” said Maria, a 15-year-old high school student from Virginia who skipped school and did not want to give her last name.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

Epstein’s accusers appear in court at hearing weeks after his suicide

Gloria Allred, representing alleged victims of Jeffrey Epstein, arrives with an unidentified women for a hearing in the criminal case against Jeffrey Epstein, who died this month in what a New York City medical examiner ruled a suicide, at Federal Court in New York, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Women who say Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them voiced anger and defiance in a packed New York courtroom on Tuesday during a dramatic hearing less than three weeks after the financier killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

“I feel very angry and sad that justice has never been served in this case,” Courtney Wild, one of the women, told the hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman.

“I will not let him win in death,” another woman, Chauntae Davies, told the court.

Federal prosecutors appeared at the hearing to ask the judge to formally dismiss their case against Epstein.

Berman explained why he gave the women and their lawyers an opportunity to address the court.

“The victims have been included in the proceeding today both because of their relevant experiences and because they should always be involved before, rather than after, the fact,” Berman said at the outset of the hearing.

Epstein, who once counted U.S. President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton as friends, was arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of girls as young as 14.

The 66-year-old was found dead Aug. 10 in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. An autopsy concluded that he hanged himself.

Davies said she was hired by Epstein to give massages. The financier raped her the third or fourth time they met on his private island and continued to abuse her, Davies said.

Another woman, who chose not to give her name, said Epstein’s death must be investigated.

“We do need to know how he died. It felt like a whole new trauma. … It didn’t feel good to wake up that morning and find that he allegedly committed suicide,” she said, holding back tears.

Another unnamed woman said she came to New York to become a model and was victimized by Epstein.

“I’m just angry that he’s not alive to have to pay the price for his actions,” she said.

Berman ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers for Epstein to appear in court after the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office said it wanted to dismiss the indictment against the financier in light of his jail cell death.

‘CURIOUS’ DEATH

During the hearing, attorney Brad Edwards, who represents women who say they were sexually abused by Epstein, said, “I have in the courtroom today 15 victims I represent and have represented over the years. There are at least 20 more who didn’t make this hearing today.”

Edwards said Epstein’s “untimely death” was “curious,” adding: “More so, it makes it absolutely impossible for the victims to ever get the day in court that they wanted, and to get full justice. That now can never happen.”

At the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey said the law required the dismissal of the case in light of Epstein’s death, but said the government’s investigation was ongoing.

“Dismissal of this indictment as to Jeffrey Epstein in no way prohibits or inhibits the government’s ongoing investigation into potential co-conspirators,” Comey said.

Epstein’s death has triggered investigations by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which runs the detention facility.

Epstein’s arrest in New York came more than a decade after Epstein avoided being prosecuted on similar federal charges in Florida by striking a deal that allowed him to plead guilty to state prostitution charges.

That deal, which has been widely criticized as too lenient, resulted in Epstein serving 13 months in a county jail, which he was allowed to leave during the day on work release.

Brittany Henderson, a lawyer with Edwards’ firm, read a statement from another victim, Michelle Licata.

“I was told then that Jeffrey Epstein was going to be held accountable, but he was not,” she said of the earlier investigation. “The case ended without me knowing what was going on. … I was treated like I did not matter.”

Multiple women have filed civil lawsuits against Epstein’s estate since his death, saying he abused them and seeking damages. Some have alleged the abuse continued after his plea deal and even while he was on work release from his previous jail sentence.

Just two days before his death, Epstein signed a will placing all of his property, worth more than $577 million, in a trust, according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Will Dunham)

Dozens of child sex abuse victims sue Catholic Church in New York after change in law

FILE PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

By Matthew Lavietes

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dozens of people in New York state who were victims of sexual abuse as children sued the Roman Catholic Church in New York on Wednesday, the first day a new law temporarily enabled them to file lawsuits over decades-old crimes.

More than 70 people have filed lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church in New York as of early Wednesday, according to the New York County Supreme Court records, most of them accusing priests of sexually abusing them as children and church leaders of covering up the priests’ crimes.

The state’s landmark Child Victims Act, which is effective from Wednesday and will scrap, for one year, a statute of limitations that had barred older complaints and which critics said was too restrictive. The law is expected to lead to hundreds of lawsuits against churches, schools and youth groups.

The change in the law means people of any age in New York state have a year to file a retroactive sexual abuse lawsuit against an alleged offender.

The bill amends “New York’s antiquated laws to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, regardless of when the crime occurred,” New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office said in a statement after he signed the measure into law in February.

At least one woman who said she was sexually abused by the late Jeffrey Epstein sued the disgraced financier’s estate early on Wednesday, and more were expected to follow.

A lawsuit was also filed against Boy Scouts of America, accusing the national organization of knowingly employing thousands of leaders who were suspected of molesting children.

Cases are expected to be filed in the coming weeks against churches, schools, hospitals and other institutions across New York City, with defendants ranging from the plaintiffs’ relatives and neighbors to members of the clergy.

One law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, said it would file 400 lawsuits under the Child Victims Act just in New York City, with plaintiffs ranging from teenagers to people in their 90s. Statewide, the firm said it was representing more than 1,200 people who were victims of sexual abuse as children.

A separate group of law firms, including Seeger Weiss, said it would be representing at least 170 plaintiffs across the state, many with complaints against the Roman Catholic Church.

After the one-year period expires, victims will have until the age of 55 to sue alleged abusers.

(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes and Gabriella Borter, additonal reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico, writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bernadette Baum)

U.S. prosecutors charge New York man with being Islamic State sniper

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a 42-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Kazakhstan, appears in this courtroom sketch alongside Attorney Susan Kellman before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold at the United States Courthouse after he was was charged with providing material support to the Islamic State, in New York City, U.S. July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

(Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors have charged a New York man with fighting for the Islamic State militant group in Syria and serving as a weapons trainer, according to court documents unsealed on Friday.

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a 42-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Kazakhstan, was charged with providing material support to the terrorist organization, including providing training to terrorist soldiers and attempting to recruit personnel.

Asainov traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, from his home in New York’s Brooklyn borough in December 2013 and then to Syria, where he joined Islamic State and rose through the ranks as a sniper and then as a weapons instructor, according to charging documents.

Prosecutors said Asainov was detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces and was transferred into FBI custody.

The charges filed against Asainov were based in part on his regular communication between August 2014 and March 2015 with a confidential informant working for the New York Police Department. According to the complaint, Asainov attempted to recruit the informant to work for Islamic State’s media operations and asked that he send about $2,800 for military equipment.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several attacks against Americans in the United States and abroad.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Boston; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)