Friday, July 15, 2011

Who caught Levi Aron?

Police and the papers say Yaakov German is the man who went through the footage on neighborhood surveillance cameras, and helped provide the information police used to arrest Levi Aron. It seems at least some of the credit many of us have been giving to the NYPD belongs to this man, too. As they used to say, "Give him maftir this shabos!"

Full story after the jump.

Amateur sleuth Yaakov German helps cops catch Levi Aron and solve murder of Leiby Kletzky



An amateur sleuth armed with determination and intuition helped cops crack the murder of Leiby Kletzky by tracking his path to doom.

Yaakov German isn't a cop or a private detective. He's a property manager and father of 12 with a reputation as a do-gooder.

By banging on doors and scrutinizing grainy video, he uncovered crucial clues that led cops to confessed killer Levi Aron.

"At the end of the day, he should be given the credit for the cracking of the case," said Rabbi Jack Mayer of the NYPD's Clergy Liaison Program.

His investigation into the disappearance of the 8-year-old boy was unofficial, but personal.

German, 47, lives on 45th St. in Borough Park. Leiby vanished Monday after leaving a yeshiva day camp one block away, on 44thSt. - but the connection wasn't just geographic.

"I found out my son was his teacher and I was even more motivated," German said.

He heard Leiby was missing late Monday, and a few hours later - with the help of son Avrumy, 25, and the principal of Yeshiva Boyan - he had access to school security video.

The cameras captured Leiby leaving the lunchroom with a shopping bag over his shoulder and a knapsack on his back.

Because local businesses were closed, German couldn't track him outside - so he spent the wee hours with neighbors shouting for Leiby on 13th Ave.

Searchers assumed Leiby turned in that direction because he was supposed to meet his parents on 13th Ave. and 50th St. on the first day he was allowed to walk home alone.

"I had a feeling I was going to bring him back alive," German said. "I told my son, 'Go to sleep; tomorrow morning I'll have him alive.'"

'Come down - I see kids'

It didn't happen, so when the shops opened Tuesday morning,German was there, demanding to see security footage.

He took along his son, who'd been Leiby's teacher all year, to help identify the boy's image.

The search began at The Children's Place on 44th St. and 13thAve., where a worker was reluctant to let them view the video.

"I cried to the worker," German said. "He said he can't let us down to the basement for security reasons, and there were customers and he can't leave the store alone."

German persuaded the employee to at least go downstairs and look himself.

"All of sudden, he broke," he said. "He said, 'You know, come down - I see kids.'"

His heart racing, he scrutinized the fuzzy footage. "First, two kids went by together with knapsacks," he said. "Then a single kid, then again two kids, then a single kid. Then I watched another 10 minutes and no kids went through with knapsacks."

He and his son watched over and over, but realized Leiby wasn't on the video.

"That's how I finalized he didn't take a right on 13th Ave. like everyone thought," he said.

He figured the boy had missed his turn. "I went down 44th St. searching for cameras," German said. "There were two homes with cameras, but they weren't working."

A block later, at Variety Corner at 44th St. and 14th Ave., he hit pay dirt. Two cameras showed the boy passing by about 5:15 p.m.

German called the boy's father.

"I called him when I saw [Leiby] on the first camera, to make him a drop happy," he said.

At the next corner, 44th St. and 15th Ave., he found his clearest images yet, at Shomrin Locksmith.

"We had a a clear shot of his face," German said.

The only camera on the next block was on a resident's garage, but it was corrupted and unwatchable.

But Yeshiva Beth Hillel of Krasna, just past 16th Ave. on 44thSt., had footage of the whole block. "I called up the principal, went through their footage," German said. "I saw the kid walking by all the way to 17th Ave."

When 44th St. dead-ended at Dahill Road, the trail seemed to go cold again.

A video store had footage that showed only sidewalks on one side of the street. Benchers Unlimited had footage of both sidewalks but no sign of the boy.

Then German spotted newly installed cameras at a car-leasing company, Tristate Fleet. That's when they spotted Aron, the man who would be later identified as Leiby's killer.

"We found the kid," German said. "We saw somebody going with him and back forth. We watched it in slow motion.

"We saw the perp going across the avenue, going into a white house, up three steps, going in for three minutes and coming back out. We went by and saw it was a dentist's office."

All this time, German was feeding information to Mayer, the liaison to the NYPD, and he was sharing it with detectives.

At about 5:30 p.m., cops arrived at Tristate. "They came in here, screeching tires," said owner Yehuda Bernstein, 40.

Cracking the case

Cops, who confirmed German's account, tracked down the dentist at home. They learned that Aron was the only patient who had been in and out quickly - to pay a bill - and they got his address.

Soon after, they swarmed Aron's house on E. Second St., where they found Leiby's severed feet in the freezer, 2 miles from where the rest of his body would be found in a Dumpster.

German, who shopped at the hardware store where Aron was a clerk, was outside the house when cops made the arrest early Wednesday.

"I never saw a detective with tears before in my life," he said. "They said, 'They don't have the whole body.' We all started crying."

German says he felt like he had no choice but to help. "You got to do what you got to do," he said.

Still, he's crushed by the grisly outcome of his old-fashioned pavement-pounding.

"I just can't stand to see something like this happening in our community," he said.


- Yaakov German views security footage from Yeshiva Boyan showing Leiby Kletzky leaving the school about 4:50 p.m. wearing a striped shirt and carrying a knapsack.

- Leiby is nowhere to be found on security footage from The Children's Place on 13th Ave., so German determines the kid missed his turn onto 13th Ave.

- German determines Leiby kept going straight on 44th St. after spotting him on security footage from a hardware store and another school.

- German finds that security footage from Tristate Fleet, a car dealership at the end of 44th St., shows Leiby and suspect Levi Aron together, and shows Aron going in and out of the dentist's office.

- Cops get the dentist office to give them Aron's name and address.

Phone Hacking Fallout: Rebekah Brooks Resigns As CEO Of News International

 The former News Of The World editor told News International staffers in an email that she has become "a focal point of the debate" over the integrity of Rupert Murdoch's news operations and that is "now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past." But the resignation suggests that Murdoch feels seriously threatened. His company is being investigated by UK police, Parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron, and now in the U.S. by the FBI. Earlier Murdoch stood by Brooks even after he closed NOTW, abandoned his effort to buy BSkyB, and Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband publicly called on her to leave. Many people questioned why Brooks kept her job last week while hundreds of NOTW employees lost theirs. Brooks had been editor in 2002 when the paper tampered with voice mail messages of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler, leading her parents to believe she might still be alive.

Brooks is being replaced by an executive with no connection to Murdoch's newspapers and the scandal: Sky Italia CEO Tom Mockridge. Here's the News International announcement:

News Corporation names Tom Mockridge

Chief Executive Officer of News International

London, 15 July, 2011 – News Corporation today announced the appointment of Tom Mockridge to the role of Chief Executive Officer of News International. Mr Mockridge will assume responsibility for his new role with immediate effect following the resignation of Rebekah Brooks.

Mr Mockridge joins News International from Sky Italia where he has been Chief Executive Officer since launch in 2003. He was also Chief Executive European Television of News Corporation, overseeing News Corporation’s television operations in Europe, outside of the UK.

Laura Cioli, Chief Operating Officer, and Domenico Labianca, Chief Finance Officer, will assume Mr Mockridge’s responsibilities on an interim basis, reporting to James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Chairman and CEO, International, News Corporation. Prior to joining Sky Italia, Mr Mockridge was Chief Executive of the publicly-listed New Zealand company, Independent Newspapers, and Chairman of Sky New Zealand. He previously held various roles at Star Group Limited and spent three years as Chief Executive Officer of Foxtel, News Corporation’s Australian pay TV joint venture. Mr Mockridge joined News Corporation in January 1991, working for Ken Cowley, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Australian newspaper company News Limited. Before that, he was a spokesperson in the Australian government. He started his career as a newspaper journalist in New Zealand.

Mr Mockridge is also a non-executive director of BSkyB and a member of the Supervisory Board of Sky Deutschland. James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Chairman and CEO, International, News Corporation, said: “Tom is an outstanding executive with unrivalled experience across our journalism and television businesses. He has proven himself to be a very effective operator in his time at Sky Italia. Under his leadership, Sky has grown to become one of the

world’s most successful pay TV businesses, reaching close to 5 million homes and launching channels like TG24 which has set a new standard for independent journalism in Italy.

“I believe that Tom is the best person to move the company forward to a brighter future.”

Privacy, Civility and an All-Star Decision

By Richard A. Lee

I don't care that Derek Jeter decided not to take part in this year's Major League Baseball All-Star game.

Sure, it would have been great to watch Jeter play in the midsummer classic a few days after he made baseball history by becoming the first New York Yankee to reach the 3,000-hit mark.

But if the veteran shortstop feels he needs a few days off (as he did), that's his prerogative.

The real question here is not whether Jeter should or should not have skipped the All-Star game. The more intriguing issue is how and why a personal decision became a much discussed topic of public debate and just what that says about the world in which we live today.

For better or for worse, our public figures are under more scrutiny than ever. In part, this is a result of today's 24/7 news cycle, but it also reflects the public's insatiable appetite for news, information and gossip.

On one hand, public figures -- whether they be athletes, entertainers or government leaders -- owe their fame, wealth and fortune to the general public, so one could legitimately argue that we have a right to know details of their lives.

But on the other hand, they are people just like all of us. They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends, and they are entitled to a modicum of privacy.

When I was a music critic, the leader of a popular rock band told me:

"When we were first starting out, we used to say, 'Wouldn't it be great if we hit it big and we got to be so popular we couldn't even walk down the street?' Well, it turned out we did hit it big and we did get to be so popular we couldn't walk down the street, and you know what? It wasn't that great after all."

The man's point is well-taken. If given the chance, most of us would sacrifice a bit of personal privacy in return for fame, fortune or power -- and there's no denying that we would enjoy those fruits of success.

But at what price?

"The right to privacy, it seems, is what makes us civilized," Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, wrote in The Right to Privacy, a 1995 book she co-authored with Ellen Alderman.

The two authors’ words about privacy and civility are even more appropriate today. Yes, public figures do need to be accountable, and they should not be immune from criticism. But before we sound off about something they've done -- or haven't done -- remember that it's no fun to live in a glass house.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute. A former State House reporter and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media, politics and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies. Read more of Rich's columns at richleeonline and follow him on Twitter.