NEW YORK — A man accused in the horrific abduction and dismemberment of an 8-year-old boy from a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community pleaded guilty on Thursday — a deal that will put him behind bars for at least 40 years and avoid a heart-wrenching trial.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes made the arrangement in close consultation with the family of the boy, Leiby Kletzky.
The plea, to charges of second-degree murder and kidnapping, guarantees a sentence of 40 years to life for Levi Aron, a 36-year-old hardware store clerk. He originally had faced a first-degree murder charge.
The family was “eager to see this concluded and grateful to D.A. Hynes,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who’s acted as a family spokesman, said in a statement before the plea. “The last thing they want is to relive the horror of losing their child.”
Leiby’s mother is expecting a baby in about six weeks, Hikind said.
Forecasters predict 3 to 6 more hurricanes
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Government forecasters on Thursday called for the remainder of the storm season to see six to 11 named storms, including three to six hurricanes with two to three of those being major.
Overall, for the entire season, they expect 12 to 17 named storms, including five to eight hurricanes, with two to three of those being major.
That would amount to a slightly busier than normal season, which sees 12 named storms, including six hurricanes, three major.
“We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm conducive wind patterns and warmer than normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
He added that the Atlantic basin remains in an era of hurricane intensity, making it prone to produce an above-average number of hurricanes and major hurricanes each year.
In late May, NOAA predicted a near normal season with nine to 15 named storms, including four to eight hurricanes, with one to three of those being major, with sustained winds greater than 110 mph.
“We have a long way to go until the end of the season, and we shouldn’t let our guard down,” said Laura Furgione, acting director of the National Weather Service.
So far, six named storms have emerged, including two hurricanes. The season saw the fastest start in history when four named storms formed before July 1.
USDA unveils steps to fight food stamp fraud
WASHINGTON — The Agriculture Department has come out with new steps to fight fraud in the federal food stamp program, which has taken central stage as Congress struggles to come up with a long-term farm policy bill.
The actions include giving the department new authority to both permanently disqualify and fine retailers who traffic in food stamps and requiring states to make use of federal databases, including prison and death records, to ensure that food stamp benefits go to those who are eligible.
The department says food stamp fraud is already at record lows due to increased oversight. But it is sensitive to any reports of abuse as Congress tries to pass a farm bill that provides almost $80 billion a year for the 46 million receiving food stamp benefits.
Pa. road crew paints yellow line over dead raccoon
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The “squirrelly” configuration of a western Pennsylvania road helped cause a state road crew to paint a double-yellow line over a dead raccoon.
PennDOT spokesman John Ambrosini says paint crews usually have a foreman on the job who clears away any dead animals before the paint-spraying truck equipment passes by. This crew didn’t have a foreman and the equipment was too big to turn around in traffic, remove the animal and repair the paint. He said “the squirrelly geometry” of the narrow road didn’t help. But the crew did try to stop the paint gun.
A motorcyclist snapped a photo of the mistake before it could be cleaned up.