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Sotheby's admits to rigging auction commissions, fees

NEW YORK (AP) -- A judge has accepted a plea deal in which Sotheby's auction house will pay a $45 million fine for admitting it participated in an antitrust conspiracy to cheat its buyers and sellers.

Sotheby's and its former chief executive, Diana D. Brooks, pleaded guilty in October to fixing commission prices and fees with rival Christie's.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan accepted the plea agreement Friday.

Prosecutors said Brooks and others agreed to fix sellers' commissions, participated in meetings to discuss the commissions and even agreed which auction house would publish its nonnegotiable sellers' commission schedule first.

Christie's admitted its role in the scheme and cooperated with investigators.

From April 1993 until last February, Sotheby's made more than $225 million from sellers' commissions, court documents said.

As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors promised not to charge any current or former employee of Sotheby's other than Brooks and her onetime boss, former Sotheby's chairman A. Alfred Taubman. Both resigned in February. Brooks is awaiting sentencing.

Racketeering suit to go on against Pyramid Cos.

SYRACUSE (AP) -- A $100 million lawsuit against mall developer Robert Congel, his Pyramid Cos. and his partners will move ahead, a federal judge in Syracuse has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Norman A. Mordue refused Friday to dismiss racketeering claims against Congel and some associates made by lawyers for the developer's partners on some Pyramid-owned malls.

Pyramid Cos., based in Syracuse, owns two dozen malls in New York, Massachusetts and Vermont and developed the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga. It recently proposed plans to make the Carousel Center in Syracuse the largest mall in the country.

Mordue did dismiss several of the complaints brought in the wide-ranging lawsuit. But the suit will go forward.

Six minority partners in 10 Pyramid malls in New York and Massachusetts had filed the lawsuit in May against 16 Pyramid insiders and companies.

The partners allege Congel and a group of key Pyramid insiders engaged in a pattern of misappropriating money, self-dealing and mismanagement, with intent to defraud.

One of two twins admits guilt in rape of teen girl

VALLEY FALLS (AP) -- One of two 19-year-old twins accused of raping a girl in her home in October has pleaded guilty.

Todd W. Swartout of Cohoes pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree rape and first-degree burglary. Rensselaer County District Attorney Kenneth Bruno said Swartout faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing will be March 14.

Police said he and his twin, Chad F. Swartout of Waterford, wearing plastic bags over their heads, forced their way into a 16-year-old girl's home Oct. 24 in Valley Falls, 20 miles northeast of Albany. The girl was home alone. Police say the brothers bound her hands and gagged her with electrical tape.

Todd Swartout has admitted he raped the girl while his brother held her down, Bruno said. He has agreed to testify against his brother if that case goes to trial.

Chad Swartout has pleaded innocent and remains in Rensselaer County Jail.

Man stabbed in NYU dorm is in critical condition

NEW YORK (AP) -- A man was in critical condition after being stabbed early Saturday during an altercation inside a dormitory room at New York University, police said.

Sam Chernawsy, 23, was stabbed two or three times in the chest at about 1:35 a.m. and was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital, police said.

Chernawsy was apparently the guest of an unidentified female student in the NYU Law School.

The alleged assailant, Erham Chan, 30, of Manhattan, apparently had a "personal history with the female student," said NYU spokesman John Beckman. It was not immediately clear how Chan got into the dormitory, which has a 24-hour security staff, Beckman said.

He was charged with attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

The weapon, a 12-inch knife apparently taken from the kitchen of the dormitory room, was recovered by police.

Neither Chan nor Chernawsy is a student at the university.

Federal probe targeting Wallkill Police Department

WALLKILL (AP) -- The FBI has begun a preliminary investigation of the Wallkill Police Department, which was recently labeled "out of control" by the state attorney general.

FBI agents met Friday in Wall-kill with John Beairsto, temporary police chief. He took the job only a week earlier, following detailed allegations of corruption in the department by Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer.

"We are doing a preliminary inquiry into potential criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes," Donald Weber, FBI supervisor and senior resident agent, told the Middletown Times Herald-Record after the two-hour meeting Friday.

Spitzer's lawsuit accuses the department, 79 miles north of Manhattan, of having several rogue police officers who repeatedly menaced, intimidated and sexually harassed citizens, including several 16-year-old girls.

Ari Moskowitz, a Wallkill police officer, won a $200,000 judgment last year against the town in federal court based on his claim that his civil rights had been violated after he aired concerns about the department.

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