Ithaca’s Bedroom Burglar Case Stays in City Court

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Block Gavel

gavelITHACA, N.Y. — A triple-burglary case against a Cornell University student will remain in city court. The charges against Byung Jun Lee will be decided locally instead of in a Tompkins County courtroom, City of Ithaca Judge Judith Rossiter ruled Thursday.

“And that’s a good thing for you,” she told the 21-year-old. Lee is charged with burglarizing three locations along Cornell’s North Campus. Three of Lee’s female victims were prepared to testify at today’s preliminary hearing, but the defendant’s attorney Kevin Jones waived the need for them to appear.

Earlier this week, Lee pleaded not guilty to all charges, including three counts of burglary, criminal mischief and obstruction.

Rossiter did sign five orders of protection against Lee for the victims, all Cornell students. Another order of protection was signed for a Cornell sorority house. When the Ithaca Police Department arrested Lee, he was captured on the 400 block of Wycoff Avenue. The Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority is at 435 Wycoff.

Lee, who is out on bail, received the court’s okay to visit family and friends near Syracuse. A pre-trial conference was scheduled for January 14.

Ithaca Council Narrowly Defeats Adding Police to Myrick Budget

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IPD-patchITHACA, N.Y. — City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick cast the tie-breaking vote Tuesday, rejecting a Common Council proposal to add two Ithaca police officers to the 2014 budget.

“This budget was full of hard choices and we had to make difficult decisions to close a $2 million deficit,” Myrick wrote in a message posted to Facebook. Myrick had opposed the addition of two officers to his proposed $64.5 million budget, the mayor arguing additional $117,000 price tag would further increase city taxes. (His proposal to add a supervisory position to oversee internal operations within the Ithaca Police Department was approved, however.)

Common Council members were evenly divided on whether new officers were needed to handle an increase in violent crime.  Many of the council members who voted for the measure represented areas directly affected by street crime.  While both members of the Second Ward and Fifth Ward approved beefing up the police presence,  the hard-hit First Ward cast split votes. Cynthia Brock voted for two new police positions, while fellow First Ward representative Jennifer Dotson sided with Myrick.

Dotson, who is also Executive Director of TCAT, did not run for re-election and ends her term on the Common Council December 31.  She lost her own budget battle after the Council voted to drop funding for the public transportation service.

Common Council members voting yes: J.R. Clairborne and Seph Murtagh of the Second Ward; Deb Mohlenhoff and Chris Proulx of the Fifth Ward, and the First Ward’s Brock. Voting against the additional police: Dotson of the First Ward; Ellen McCollister and Donna Fleming of the Third Ward, along with Stephen Smith and Graham Kerslick in the Fourth Ward.

The mayor’s ‘no’ vote made the final tally 6-5 against adding money for two police officers to the budget.  Myrick “argued that although there had been an increase in crime in the city, Ithaca still has less crime than an average city and more officers per person than other cities,” reported the Cornell Daily Sun.

Although McCollister raised the potential that City of Ithaca residents would flee to other communities if taxes were raised too much, both Murtagh and Proulx said they favored a tax increase to pay for better public safety. Ithaca Police Department Chief  John Barber had earlier told the Council the new officers could help an already stretched police force combat escalating crime. Last year, nine officers were cut from the city’s 2013 budget.

Yesterday’s vote may not put an end to the controversy. Murtagh said IPD staffing questions should be front and center in future Ithaca budgets.




Ithaca’s Bedroom Burglar Pleads Not Guilty

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ITHACA — Cornell University student Byun Jun Lee pleaded not guilty to all charges in Ithaca City Court Tuesday. The Ithaca Police Department Saturday arrested Lee on multiple charges, including three counts of burglary.

After entering his plea, Lee was released under supervision of the Tompkins County Probation Department, according to Ronna Collins, Chief Clerk for the Ithaca City Court. He is expected back in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing before Judge Judith Rossiter. The hearing will determine whether there is probable cause to bound Lee over for trial.

On Sunday, Ithaca police arrested Lee after stopping him near where three burglaries allegedly occurred early Saturday on Thurston and Wycoff Avenues. Police captured Lee on the 400 block of Wycoff after an officer said he found Lee inside a home on the 300 block of Wycoff. A woman told Ithaca police she woke to find a man near her bed who had reached under the covers to touch her foot.

Lee is represented by attorney Kevin Jones.

Moravia Man Charged with Leaving Scene of Dryden Death

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Cystal Grobelny
Cystal Grobelny

Crystal Grobelny. (photo/Bevier family)

MORAVIA, NY — A 36-year-old Moravia man Tuesday was charged in connection with the discovery Sunday of the body of a 31-year-old Moravia woman in the Town of Dryden.

Tompkins County Sheriff’s deputies charged Arthur Basso with leaving the scene of an incident without notifying police, a felony. Basso was arraigned in Dryden Town Court and taken to Tompkins County Jail on $20,000 bail. He is to appear in court next at 9 a.m. on November 18. Additional charges are pending, according to the sheriff’s office.

Although an investigation is continuing into how Crystal Grobelny died, Senior Investigator Jody Coombes said that it doesn’t appear she was struck by a car, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.  Grobelny’s unresponsive body was found early Sunday morning on the shoulder of West Dryden Road. She was pronounced dead by the time deputies arrived.

Ironically, Grobelny wanted to become a police investigator, her father told the newspaper. She was mother to a six-year-old daughter.

Phillip Bevier said the two had been living together and were having troubles.

“‘One night somebody called me. She was bleeding in the head and she told me she fell. Well, I found out afterwards that he smashed her head in the side of the car. I said get rid of him. Why are you still with him?’” Bevier said in an interview with YNN.

Grobelny’s father said his daughter was afraid to leave the relationship.



Body Found in Dryden Identified as Moravia Woman

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DRYDEN — A body found on the side of the road in the Town of Dryden this weekend is identified as a 31-year-old Moravia woman. The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of death of Crystal Grobelny. Grobelny’s body was found early Sunday on West Dryden Road in the town of Dryden.

An autopsy was conducted at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, according to the sheriff’s office. The New York State Crash Investigation Unit, New York State Police Investigation Unit and the Tompkins County District Attorney’s office have joined the sheriff’s office in investigating the death.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Tompkins County 911 at 607-272-2444 or the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office anonymously at 607-266-5420.


Martha Robertson Claims Reed Vulnerable in 23rd District Race

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Martha Robertson

Martha RobertsonOLEAN — Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson, D-Ithaca, told a weekend audience the Republican incumbent in the 23rd Congressional District is vulnerable. Speaking to steel workers in Olean Robertson said Rep. Tom Reed is tainted by the Tea Party.

“Ideology never created a single job,” she told members of the United Steel Workers 4601 Saturday. “That’s what we see with Congressman Reed. That’s somebody who checks to see what the Tea Party wants him to do, despite claiming he’s a moderate,” Robertson said.

Robertson’s talk of jobs came as Cooper Power Systems announced it would move 79 Olean jobs to Mexico.

In 2012, Tompkins County Legislature member Nate Shinagawa (D-Ithaca) narrowly missed unseating Reed, coming within 3.8 percent of the vote. The close election came despite the 23rd district being viewed as solidly Republican. Shinagawa is back as Robertson’s campaign chair.

After the last election, Shinagawa pointed to being outspent three-to-one by a Reed campaign flush with PAC money.

“We’re going to be outspent but not three to one,” promises Robertson.  Although one report in October suggested she is being outspent four-to-one by her Republican opponent, Robertson pointed to her local financial support.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we already have over 2,000 individual donors already and the vast majority are from this district. Tom Reed can’t say that. His money is coming from  PACs and corporations,” the Salamanca Press quoted the candidate.

Robertson believes the heavy local support is what gained the attention of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In September, the Democratic fundraising arm of the U.S. Congress ranked New York’s 23rd congressional district as competitive and one where Republicans could be replaced.

Although the Democratic challenger launched an early start to the 2014 campaign, Robertson’s candidacy was briefly sidetracked. Speaking to supporters, Robertson claimed Reed’s campaign hacked into her email account. The charge was met by Republican rebuttals and a cyber security probe.

For his part, Reed was recently cleared by the Office of Congressional Ethics over campaign spending.

Police: Cornell Burglar Played Footsie with Sleeping Ithaca Woman

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Ithaca, NY —  A 21-year-old Ithaca man is charged with burglary of  three locations early Saturday near the Cornell University campus. At one point the man allegedly touched the foot of a sleeping woman, the Ithaca Police Department says.

Byung Jun Lee, of Heights Court, is charged with three counts of burglary, criminal mischief and obstruction. He is held on $5,000 bail and is scheduled to next appear in court Tuesday.

It all began when a caller told police at 3:08 am a man was trying to enter an apartment window on the 300 block of Thurston Avenue. Thurston Court Apartments located nearby is home to 22 single graduate and professional Cornell University students, according to the university. The man fled when he saw the 911 caller.

As Ithaca police were handling the 911 call, a caller on the 300 block of Wycoff Ave. reported someone in the house and was nearing the room where the caller was located.  Upon entering the residence, an officer noticed Lee in the house. Although Lee fled the address, he was captured in the 400 block of Wycoff Avenue, according to police. The Cornell sorority house of Alpha Epsilon Phi is located at 435 Wycoff.

While Ithaca police were wrapping up the second burglary, officers received a third call near where the first burglary attempt was reported. A woman living on the 400 block of Thurston Ave. told police she woke up to finda man “next to her bed, who had reached under the covers and touched her foot,” Ithaca police announced.  When confronted, the man fled.

All victims identified Lee. According to Cornell’s “people finder” service, Lee is listed as a student in the university’s undergraduate school of Arts and Sciences.


Vermont Independent