Beto O’Rourke says nothing in his past will hinder 2020 run

By SCOTT BAUER and WILL WEISSERT Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told supporters Sunday that he’s never taken LSD and there’s “nothing” he hasn’t already revealed about his past that could come back to hurt his run for office.
The former Texas congressman — who has become known for his propensity for using the “f-word” — also promised again to clean up his language, despite breaking such past vows.
O’Rourke grabbed much attention as he wrapped up his first week of campaigning, but his challengers could be found at events from the Upper Midwest to the South. And looming over them all is the shadow of one prominent Democrat not in but not out, former Vice President Joe Biden. He has yet to announce a decision.
Speaking in front of a large map of Russia inside a coffee shop in Wisconsin’s capital, O’Rourke promised to return often, addressing concerns Democrats raised in 2016 after Hillary Clinton never campaigned in the state after her party’s primary and lost the state to Donald Trump by fewer than 23,000 votes.
“This state is fundamental to any prospect we have of electing a Democrat to the presidency in 2020,” O’Rourke said, adding that he was “really glad” Milwaukee was chosen to host the 2020 Democratic national convention. The city, which O’Rourke was visiting later Sunday, beat out Miami and Houston.
O’Rourke, of course, has to secure the Democratic presidential nomination before he can worry about the general election. But then he’s also already said he’d prefer to pick a woman as his running mate, should he make it that far. O’Rourke said Sunday that it was presumptuous to commit to that so early, but that doing so would make a “tremendous amount of sense” given the number of qualified women candidates.
Many remember the Texan for declaring “I’m so f–king proud of you guys” on national television during his concession speech in November, after narrowly losing his Senate race to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke said Sunday that he’ll not use profanities any more, after being asked by a voter if he was going to “clean up his act,” especially in front of children.
“Point taken, and very strongly made,” O’Rourke said. “We’re going to keep it clean.” He made a similar pledge during his race with Cruz, then didn’t make good.
O’Rourke has previously admitted to a 1998 arrest for drunken driving and said nothing else will come out that could be used against him during the 2020 presidential campaign. Later, he signed the skateboard of a supporter who asked if he had ever taken the drug LSD. The candidate responded that he hadn’t.
About 400 people came to the coffee shop to hear O’Rourke. Half made it inside and half listened from the sidewalk through the opened door. O’Rourke wore a St. Patrick’s Day necklace featuring green cabbage but said he had coffee — not beer — with his breakfast: “Although it can be justified as an O’Rourke on St. Patrick’s Day to do that,” he joked, in a nod to his Irish heritage.
The Republican Party’s official Twitter accounted noted his past arrest, tweeting, “On this St. Paddy’s Day, a special message from noted Irishman Robert Francis O’Rourke” and including an altered photo of the Democrat’s mug shot wearing an oversized, green leprechaun hat over the phrase “Please Drink Responsibly.”
Other highlights of Sunday’s campaigning:
ELIZABETH WARREN
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said during a campaign stop in Tennessee that her proposed tax on “ultra-millionaires” is a key step in reducing corruption and privileges for the rich, while making the economy work better for poorer people.
An energetic Warren spoke a racially-mixed group of about 400 potential voters while standing on a podium in front of the American and Tennessee flags in a large room at Douglass High School in Memphis, Tennessee, on Sunday afternoon. It was her first stop in a three-state tour of the South.
Warren is the first of a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates to visit the Deep South in the run-up to the 2020 election. She is scheduled to visit the Mississippi cities of Cleveland and Greenville before a CNN town hall in Jackson on Monday. Selma and Birmingham in Alabama are on the agenda Tuesday.
Memphis is a majority black, majority Democrat city that has backed Democrats the past three presidential elections. President Donald Trump won Tennessee.
Warren touted her tax on whose households with a net worth of $50 million or more. Warren said the tax revenue, estimated at $2.75 trillion over a ten-year period. could help in reducing the cost of housing, health care and child care.
“It is an America that is working great for those at the top and not working for anyone else, and that’s why I’m in this fight,” Warren said. She reminded the crowd that she is running a grassroots campaign that does not accept corporate donations.
KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND
Kirsten Gillibrand formally joined the 2020 White House race on Sunday and previewed the hard line she will take against President Donald Trump by announcing a rally outside one of his signature Manhattan properties.
The New York senator had spent more than a month traveling around the country to gauge support for a run. Gillibrand’s announcement that she was joining the dozen-plus Democratic candidates seeking the White House came in a nearly three-minute video released early Sunday, when she says the national anthem poses this question: “Will brave win?”
She said her debut speech as a candidate will come this coming Sunday in front of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York.
AMY KLOBUCHAR
Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar says an exchange with a tearful Vietnam veteran who lost his son to mental illness is “a moment I’m never going to forget, no matter where I go in Iowa.”
The Minnesota senator spoke to voters Sunday at a Davenport, Iowa restaurant. It was the final stop of a two-day swing through the state.
The man, who was sitting toward the front of the room wearing a Vietnam Veterans hat, began crying as Klobuchar spoke about her respect for Sen. John McCain, who died last year. The Republican was a prisoner of war during Vietnam.
Klobuchar approached the man after her speech to take a photo. She stood with a hand on his back for several minutes as he recounted losing his son and told her he fears the U.S. may get into more wars.
Afterward, Klobuchar told reporters the moment “brings up again the importance of mental health centers.” She says mental health care has been one of the biggest concerns she’s heard from voters.
PETE BUTTIGIEG
Democrat Pete Buttigieg says he’s met a fundraising threshold to participate in this summer’s presidential debates.
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor said says he’s received contributions from 65,000-plus individual donors. That’s key because the Democratic National Committee said last month up to 20 candidates can qualify for debates in June and July by collecting donations from at least 65,000 individuals, with at least 200 unique donors in at least 20 states.
In an email to supporters, Buttigieg said “we weren’t even close” to 65,000 donors when the DNC originally announced the requirement. The 37-year-old veteran says more than 76,000 people have now donated.
He also told “Fox News Sunday” that “all of the signs are pointing in the right direction” to shift from just exploring a 2020 run to becoming an official candidate, as Gillibrand did Sunday.
BILL de BLASIO
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized former President Barack Obama during a small gathering in New Hampshire as he mulls a run for president, saying that Obama’s early days in office were “a lost window.”
Minutes later, in front of a larger audience, de Blasio praised the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative achievement, calling it “progress.” Obama pursued the health care legislation during his first two years in office and has been criticized at times for focusing on health care instead of the struggling economy.
A handful of people were present in a second-floor private room of a Concord restaurant when de Blasio compared Obama to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in 1933 amid the Depression and immediately began a series of actions that came to define the modern presidency’s focus on a 100-day agenda. The mayor said Roosevelt was the only person who “had a greater head of steam and political momentum and capital coming into office.”
“He, to his great credit, did the 100 days and the reckless abandon and understood that you had to achieve for people to build the next stage of capital to use for the next thing,” de Blasio said. “Obama, I think, nobly went at health care, but it played out over such a long time and it got treated politically as such a narrow instead of universal item, tragically, that it was a lost window. And I’m not saying anything I don’t think a lot of people feel.”
CORY BOOKER
Democratic White House hopeful Cory Booker said Sunday night he would reverse President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military if elected president.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 300 voters in Davenport, Booker answered a question posed by a woman who identified herself as transgender about what he would do to protect LGBTQ rights as president.
“When I am president of the United States, right away I will end this ridiculous, insulting, un-American ban on transgender Americans serving in the military,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
It was one of a handful of Trump Administration policies the New Jersey senator pledged to undo if elected president, including Trump’s tax cuts and his revocation of protections from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.
Booker also weighed in on marijuana legalization, offering a more comprehensive vision for legalization that would include expunging criminal records and promoting access to the legal marijuana industry for women and people of color.
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Weissert reported from Dubuque, Iowa. Associated Press writers Sara Burnett and Alexandra Jaffe in Davenport, Iowa; Hunter Woodall in Concord, New Hampshire; and Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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This story has been corrected to show that Clinton didn’t campaign in Wisconsin after 2016 Democratic primary.

NY village holding mayoral election with no candidates

POLAND, N.Y. (AP) — A central New York village is holding a mayoral election with no candidates.
The Observer-Dispatch of Utica says the election on Tuesday is supposed to choose a replacement for village of Poland Mayor Mary Paul, who has decided to step down for personal reasons.
Since there are no candidates, the race will be decided by write-in votes.
Village Clerk Brandie Guarno says that if the winner does not want the position, he or she must resign.
Poland, located 55 miles (88 kilometers) east of Syracuse, has a population of about 500.

Facebook says service hindered by lack of local news

By DAVID BAUDER AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook’s effort to establish a service that provides its users with local news and information is being hindered by the lack of outlets where the company’s technicians can find original reporting.
The service, launched last year, is currently available in some 400 cities in the United States. But the social media giant said it has found that 40 percent of Americans live in places where there weren’t enough local news stories to support it.
Facebook announced Monday it would share its research with academics at Duke, Harvard, Minnesota and North Carolina who are studying the extent of news deserts created by newspaper closures and staff downsizing .
Some 1,800 newspapers have closed in the United States over the last 15 years, according to the University of North Carolina. Newsroom employment has declined by 45 percent as the industry struggles with a broken business model partly caused by the success of companies on the Internet, including Facebook.
The Facebook service, called “Today In ,” collects news stories from various local outlets, along with government and community groups. The company deems a community unsuitable for “Today In” if it cannot find a single day in a month with at least five news items available to share.
There’s not a wide geographical disparity. For example, the percentage of news deserts is higher in the Northeast and Midwest, at 43 percent, Facebook said. In the South and West, the figure is 38 percent.
“It affirms the fact that we have a real lack of original local reporting,” said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the topic. She said she hopes the data helps pinpoint areas where the need is greatest, eventually leading to some ideas for solutions.
Facebook doesn’t necessarily have the answers. “Everyone can learn from working together,” said Anne Kornblut, director of news initiatives at the company.
The company plans to award some 100 grants, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, to people with ideas for making more news available, said Josh Mabry, head of local news partnerships for Facebook.
That comes on top of $300 million in grants Facebook announced in January to help programs and partnerships designed to boost local news.
The company doesn’t plan to launch newsgathering efforts of its own, Kornblut said.
“Our history has been — and we will probably stick to it — to let journalists do what they do well and let us support them and let them do their work,” she said.

Program aims to boost faculty diversity at NY state colleges

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Cuomo administration is launching a program aimed at increasing the diversity of the faculty in the State University of New York system.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the goal of the program called Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Growth is the hiring of 1,000 early to mid-career professors from minority groups by 2030. The Democrat says the program is being implemented at all 64 SUNY campuses.
State officials say the program’s goal is to have SUNY faculty better reflect the diversity of the 425,000 students in the system, where minorities make up more than a quarter of the student population.
Currently, minorities make up only about 8 percent of SUNY faculty members. Officials say the program aims to double those ranks by the end of the next decade.

NY self-help guru pleads not guilty to child porn charges

NEW YORK (AP) — The spiritual leader of an upstate New York self-help group has pleaded not guilty to new charges accusing him of possessing child pornography.
Keith Raniere entered the plea on Monday at a hearing where it became clear that his four co-defendants are taking steps to avoid going to trial with him next month.
Prosecutors hit Raniere last week with charges accusing him of creating and possessing images of a teenage girl. He was previously charged with operating a secret society within his NXIVM (NEHK’-see-uhm) group that allegedly forced women to have unwanted sex with him and branded them with his initials.
Raniere’s co-defendants include Seagram liquor fortune heiress Clare Bronfman and TV actress Allison Mack. They have denied the charges. A prosecutor said the government is in plea negotiations with Mack and two others.

Appeals court panel sympathetic to Sheldon Silver’s claims

By LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s quest to avoid prison got a boost when a panel of appeals judges heard his appeal Wednesday, questioning whether his actions were crimes or politics as usual.
The Democrat wasn’t at oral arguments before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, but he likely heard a positive report from his lawyers.
Two of the panel’s three judges questioned whether Silver’s actions fit the definition of a public corruption crime after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling narrowed the requirements of the law.
Silver, 75, is appealing his conviction and seven-year prison sentence. Prosecutors said he collected nearly $4 million in fees to help a cancer researcher and real estate developers. An earlier conviction was overturned on appeal after the high court redefined the law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel insisted there was enough evidence to convict Silver and that the trial judge properly instructed jurors about the law.
Circuit Judge Richard J. Sullivan said a description by prosecutors of what Silver promised to do in return for business steered to a law firm was “pretty squishy.”
And he seemed critical of the prosecution’s efforts to claim proof of Silver’s crimes included his advice on how to get a charity race permit that he provided to a doctor who referred law clients to him.
“If somebody wants to pay money for that, it’s not good, but it’s not a crime, right?” Sullivan asked.
Circuit Judge Richard C. Wesley, who served in the New York Assembly from 1982 to 1986, spoke of the need to separate what is crime from what is the norm in politics.
As an example, he said anyone who accepts money from the National Rifle Association probably knows that a vote on legislation against the NRA’s wishes will prompt disappointment by the group and possibly the end to contributions.
“That’s the nature of politics, sir,” he told Richenthal, the prosecutor. “People just don’t give you money to be your friends. Believe me, I can tell you that from four years in the Legislature.”
At another point, Wesley said some of the crimes described in the case seemed so vague that the allegations “get very close to the line of the danger of just currying favor.”
Silver remains free on bail.

Guilty plea, new charges in New York sex slave case

By TOM HAYS Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A case featuring sensational claims that followers of a New York self-help organization were forced to become sex slaves took a new turn on Wednesday with one key defendant pleading guilty and another being hit with child pornography charges.
Nancy Salzman, who once ran the group NXIVM, told a judge in federal court in Brooklyn that she teamed up with self-styled spiritual leader Keith Raniere, because she wanted to help people improve their lives. But she admitted that she later lost her way when she joined efforts to spy on perceived enemies seeking to expose the Albany-based group as a cross between a pyramid scheme and a cult.
“It has taken some time and soul searching to come to this place,” said Salzman, choking back tears. “I accept that some of what I did was not just wrong, but criminal. … If I could go back and do it all over again, I would. But I can’t.”
About two hours after the guilty plea, prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Raniere accusing him of twice inducing a minor to “engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing one or more visual depictions of such conduct” in 2005.
In a statement on Wednesday, defense attorney Marc Agnifilo denied the new allegations and questioned the timing with his client nearing trial on other charges.
The new charges “serve only to taint the jury pool,” Agnifilo said. “If the charges were legitimate, they would have brought them a year ago.”
Salzman, a registered nurse who was known as “Prefect” within NXIVM, was involved in stealing identities of the group’s critics and hacking into their email accounts from 2003 to 2008, prosecutors said. They also alleged that she conspired to doctor videotapes showing her teaching NXIVM’s lessons before the tapes were turned over to plaintiffs in a New Jersey lawsuit against the group.
The plea comes about six weeks before Raniere’s trial, expected to detail allegations that a master-slave society within NXIVM brainwashed women into having unwanted sex with him and had them branded with his initials in initiation ceremonies. Among those also charged along with Raniere are Salzman’s daughter as well as Seagram liquor fortune heiress Clare Bronfman and actress Allison Mack, best known for playing a teenage friend of Superman on the “Smallville” TV series. They have all denied the charges.
Salzman apparently won’t testify for the government: There was no agreement to cooperate as part of the guilty plea to a conspiracy charge that carries an estimated maximum term of 41 months in prison under sentencing guidelines.
Raniere, 58, was arrested in Mexico in 2018 and is being held without bail in Brooklyn on sex-trafficking charges. At the time of his capture, Mack was living with him at a luxury villa in Puerto Vallarta, according to court papers.
An NXIVM bio of Salzman posted on the internet says she was a consultant to New York state and major corporations “until she met Keith Raniere and discovered an approach to personal growth that yielded powerful and permanent results.”
Sentencing for Salzman was set for July 10.

Double jeopardy? New York law could trump a pardon backstop

By DAVID KLEPPER and MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated press
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Paul Manafort’s indictment on state-level charges in New York could offer a blueprint for keeping President Donald Trump’s associates behind bars if he pardons them on federal charges stemming from the Russia probe.
But those backstop efforts could be upended if state lawmakers can’t close what some call the “double jeopardy loophole” — a New York law that state prosecutors see as a major hurdle to taking up cases that have already been resolved at the federal level.
“If we do not close this loophole, and close it soon, New Yorkers may never realize the justice they deserve,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Island Democrat and sponsor of legislation to tweak the law.
That push gained new momentum Wednesday after a Manhattan judge unsealed state charges accusing the 69-year-old Manafort of conducting a yearlong mortgage fraud scheme that raked in millions of dollars.
The state charges were announced just minutes after Manafort was sentenced in the second of two federal cases stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian influence on the 2016 election. They included allegations Manafort misled the U.S. government about foreign lobbying work and encouraged witnesses to lie on his behalf.
Some of the conduct described in the New York indictment appeared to echo the charges and testimony in Manafort’s federal case in Virginia, but Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. appeared to strategically build his case around charges of mortgage fraud and falsifying business records — which aren’t federal crimes.
New York’s double jeopardy law doesn’t explicitly give state prosecutors a green light to bring charges when a defendant has received a federal pardon. Legal experts say the omission was inadvertent, but that could have big implications for New York’s ability to investigate and prosecute the president’s associates.
It’s quirky, too, because a presidential pardon can’t waive state crimes.
“If the president were to issue a pardon, it would seem like justice would be served by (Manafort) being prosecuted for state crimes. The state law, as it is currently written, doesn’t allow for that,” said former Manhattan prosecutor Rebecca Roiphe, now a professor at New York Law School.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday that she’s reached agreements with legislative leaders on a bill revising the double jeopardy law. She said she expects a vote within the coming weeks.
Vance said in a statement that his office started investigating Manafort in March 2017 and that the probe “yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.”
“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance said.
Manafort is due to serve more than seven years in prison for his federal convictions, but Trump has raised the prospect of offering him a “get out of jail free” card. The president has repeatedly defended Manafort and floated the idea of granting him a pardon.
New York’s 16-count indictment alleges Manafort gave false and misleading information in applying for residential mortgage loans. It says that the fraud started in December 2015 and continued until three days before Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
Manafort is also charged with falsifying business records and conspiracy.
Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, said Vance’s case still has a good chance of succeeding under the current law because the mortgage charges are state crimes distinct from the federal allegations.
“Vance has left himself a fair amount of breathing space to argue that his prosecution does not violate the statute because the crimes he’s prosecuting are sufficiently different from the crimes the United States prosecuted,” Gillers said.
Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, first raised the alarm about the double jeopardy loophole last year. Despite support from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, lawmakers failed to revise the law. Schneiderman resigned just weeks later after being accused of assaulting former girlfriends.
___ Michael Sisak reported from New York.

New York inaugurates its $25 billion mini-city, Hudson Yards

By VERENA DOBNIK Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A towering sculpture called Vessel — made up of 2,500 twisting steps the public can climb — is scheduled to open Friday as the visual centerpiece of Hudson Yards, a $25 billion urban complex on Manhattan’s West Side that is the city’s most ambitious development since the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
When fully complete, the 28-acre (11-hectare) site will include 16 towers of homes and offices, a hotel, a school, the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere, a performing arts center and a shopping mall that also opens Friday.
About half the complex is complete, with the rest scheduled to be done by 2025. The opening of the $200 million Vessel and the landscape around it will likely bring a wave of tourists to a rebuilt corner of the city that was previously characterized by a huge rail yard, parking lots and weedy sidewalks once known as a cruising ground for prostitutes.
The 3,200-ton structure was assembled from steel-and-concrete pieces manufactured in Monfalcone, Italy. Accommodating 600 visitors at a time, it’s 150 feet (46 meters) tall and rises from a narrow point at its base to a width of 150 feet at its peak.
“We needed to have a centerpiece, we needed to have an attraction, a destination — something where you would say, ‘I’ll meet you at,'” says Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards, which partnered with the Oxford Properties Group to develop the site. “And we thought monumental art is the way to go.”
The concept was to make something “participatory,” he said of the sculpture, created by British designer Thomas Heatherwick. “The idea was that everybody would just come in and climb it, be able to propose marriage up here, or run up and down, do whatever they want.”
Admission is free, but people can get timed tickets in advance to avoid a line to enter.
The developers, including Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, have billed their project as the most expensive private development in U.S. history.
High-power tenants planning to move into Hudson Yards office space include CNN, WarnerMedia, Wells Fargo and the BlackRock money manager. The luxury goods maker Coach is already operating there. About 60 percent of nearly 300 luxury apartments on the market have been sold, with hundreds more coming up.
The observation deck is set to open later this year on the 100th story of one of the city’s tallest buildings. The wedge-shaped deck will be 100 feet (30 meters) above the one on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, with a bird’s eye view of the New York skyline and the Atlantic Ocean.
The arts center, a 200,000-square foot (18,580-square meter) building called The Shed , is scheduled to open April 5. It includes an outer shell that can deploy over an adjacent public plaza on huge wheels to expand the size of the performance space.
Also opening Friday is a seven-story mall called the Shops at Hudson Yards, with more than 100 stores offering brands from Cartier, Stuart Weitzman and Manhattan’s first Neiman Marcus to chains like H&M and Zara. There will also be a slew of dining choices including a Shake Shack, Neiman Marcus’s signature Zodiac restaurant and celebrity chefs’ restaurants.
Hudson Yards is part of a stretch of construction along the Hudson River from Columbus Circle to the World Trade Center that is gradually nudging New York’s power-and-money epicenter west from midtown Manhattan.
Make no mistake, Hudson Yards is aimed mostly at residents with deep pockets — one-bedroom apartments are renting for more than $5,000 a month, about $2,000 more than the average Manhattan one-bedroom apartment. A two-story penthouse is selling for $32 million. And although 10 percent of the residential space has been reserved for affordable housing, that applies to people whose annual income is still above poverty level.
It took decades for this real estate saga to take shape.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had wanted the West Side rail yards to become the site of a domed stadium that could host the 2012 Olympics and later be a home for the NFL’s Jets, but political and logistical hurdles ultimately killed those plans in favor of a mixed-use, commercial and residential neighborhood.
The developers broke ground on the project in 2012, building over the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road that connect with Penn Station, the city’s busiest transportation hub. In an impressive engineering feat, massive columns support a platform surrounding the buildings and covering the tracks.
To lure investors, Hudson Yards is getting a government tax break plus other assistance running into billions of dollars that also financed the extension of a subway line.
In return, government officials hope the more than 50,000 estimated jobs created at Hudson Yards will justify the financial support.
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Associated Press writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed to this report.
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This story has been corrected to show that the vessel weighs 3,200 tons, not 600 tons.

Reputed Gambino crime boss shot to death in New York City

By TOM HAYS and MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The reputed boss of New York’s Gambino crime family was gunned down outside his home, dying a virtual unknown compared with his swaggering 1980s-era predecessor, the custom-tailored tabloid regular John Gotti.
Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds at his red-brick colonial-style house on Staten Island on Wednesday night and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
No immediate arrests were made.
Federal prosecutors had referred to Cali in court filings in recent years as the underboss of the Gambino organization. News accounts since 2015 said he had ascended to the top spot.
The Gambino family was once among the most powerful criminal organizations in the U.S., but federal prosecutions in the 1980s and 1990s sent Gotti and other top leaders to prison, diminishing its reach.
The last Mafia boss to be shot to death in New York City was Gambino don Paul Castellano, assassinated outside a Manhattan steakhouse in 1985 at the direction of Gotti, who then took over.
Cali kept a much lower profile than Gotti.
With his expensive double-breasted suits and overcoats and silvery swept-back hair, Gotti became known as the Dapper Don, his smiling face all over the tabloids. As prosecutors tried and failed to bring him down, he came to be called the Teflon Don.
In 1992, Gotti was convicted in Castellano’s murder and a multitude of other crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of cancer in 2002.
Cali’s only mob-related criminal conviction came a decade ago, when he pleaded guilty in an extortion scheme involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was sentenced to 16 months behind bars and was released in 2009.