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Dee Thompson Aug-17-2017 218 0
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals at Dallas ruled that Erykah Badu’s comments on social media about former manager Paul Levatino were protected free speech, however the case is going back to the trial court for further rulings.

Paul Levatino worked for Erykah Badu (real name Erica Wright) for 8 years as the general manager of her business interests. His duties included merchandising, concert and event management, and marketing. He was paid through her company Apple Tree Cafe Touring.

On May 27, 2014, Badu terminated the employment of Levatino. She said on May 29, 2014, on social media that Levatino was never her manager and she had never had a manager, according to the court's opinion. She also alleged he had shut down her Facebook fan page.

In October 2014, Badu received a letter from Levatino’s lawyer Joseph H. Gillespie of Gillespie Sanford LLP stating she had defamed Levatino, and asking for a public retraction and compensation. 

On Oct. 31, 2014, Badu filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment, saying that Levatino had never been her talent manager and was not owed any compensation. Badu next filed an amendment to the petition alleging fraud, conversion and theft by deception.

In response to the petition, Levatino filed a counterclaim “...asserting Badu’s Facebook and Twitter posts were defamatory and have caused Levatino to suffer actual damages in the form of lost compensation and earning capacity, and non-pecuniary damages.” Additionally, “Levatino asserts Apple Tree is liable for the statements and omissions made by Badu,” according to the court of appeals' Aug. 3 order.

Levatino moved for dismissal of Badu’s claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) and asserted that his pre-suit demand letters were protected activity under the TCPA. 
To be considered an exercise of the right of association under the TCPA, communication must happen “between individuals who join together to collectively express, promote, pursue or defend common interests,” according to the court's opinion.

In his petition, Levantino claimed “Attorney-client communications that culminate in a demand letter to opposing counsel expressing the common interests of the attorney and client are protected under the right of association and it was error to hold otherwise.” 

His petition also stated, “The court of appeals decision also contravenes the broadly written and liberally construed purpose of the act because instead of limiting frivolous anti-SLAPP suits, it instead incentivizes such suits by protecting parties that rush to the courthouse to file strategic retaliatory suits in response to pre-suit demand letters.”

The trial court, appellate court and Texas Supreme Court all denied his petition for review.
In its Aug. 3, ruling, the Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas ruled that the issue of attorney’s fees was remanded back to the trial court to decide. It also ruled that Badu’s comments on social media were exercises of her right of association. 

Additionally, the Court of Appeals 5th District of Texas ruled that because Badu’s comments on social media were damaging to his reputation, and it was commonly known in the music industry that he was her manager, that Levatino presented a prima facie case of defamation. According to the Wex Legal Dictionary, a "prima facie case is a cause of action or defense that is sufficiently established by a party's evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favor, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party."

The Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas concluded that “We reverse, in part, that portion of the trial court’s order awarding Levatino attorney’s fees and cost, and remand the attorney’s fees and cost issue to the trial court to determine whether appellants’ motion was frivolous or solely intended to delay. We otherwise affirm the trial court’s order.”
Thomas Tracy Aug-13-2017 104 0
A deranged Long Island man, left on the street since his mom evicted him, returned home Saturday to execute her, his sister and a third woman in a hammer-swinging bloodbath.

Bobby Vanderhall, 34, was sleeping peacefully inside a parked car when he was arrested about 2 miles away from the Hempstead home where police say he carved a late-night trail of terror.

The hulking Long Island man bashed all three women to death with a framing hammer, wreaking havoc in the suburban two-story home where he lived until Lynn Vanderhall gave her only son the boot.

“He came to kill mom and the sister . . . because his mother had kicked him out,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, head of the Nassau County Police Homicide Bureau.

The third victim, identified as a friend of his sister, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — as was a fourth woman who escaped after watching the 6-foot, 234-pound Vanderhall smash his sister Melissa in the head with the oversized hammer.

In addition to Lynn Vanderhall, 59, and daughter Melissa, 29, police identified the other victim as Janel Simpson, 29. Janel and Melissa were best friends since childhood.
Relatives of the dead wept and howled in anguish outside the home at 125 Perry St., where bloody handprints were visible from outside.

“That’s the most beautiful memory of my daughter — her smile, her laugh,” said distraught mom Wendy Simpson. “I’m not saying it should be anybody else’s child. But why me?”

According to police, the slain mother had an order of protection against her mentally-troubled son — who now faces three counts of murder and one of attempted murder.

The order did not bar him from the home, only from harassing his mom.

Neighbor Earl Sykes, 38, was driving home from the movies around 1:20 a.m. when the surviving victim sprinted between cars, barefoot and screaming, to jump on the hood of his vehicle.

“She was covered in blood,” said Sykes, who called 911. “She kept saying, ‘He’s trying to kill us! He’s trying to kill us!’

“She kept saying his whole name. She kept saying over and over again, “Help me please.’ When the officer asked, ‘Did he take his medication?’ she was saying, ‘He was supposed to.’”

The surviving woman, identified as Candace Murray, was in stable condition at a Long Island hospital with a fractured wrist and contusions.

The killing spree started shortly after Bobby returned to the house in the middle of the night, only to find he was locked out.

“The doors were secured and he became enraged,” said Fitzpatrick. “He went to the garage, he obtained a large hammer. . . . With this hammer, he broke through the basement door.”

Once upstairs, he fatally bludgeoned his mother in the living room before heading toward the second floor. He was climbing the stairs when his sister and Murray appeared, rushing down to help Melissa’s mom, police said.

Bobby began bashing his sister as Murray fled for her life. Janel Simpson was by herself in another room, where Bobby Vanderhall killed her last, cops said.

Lynn Vanderhall threw her son out of the house at some point after a March 2017 incident where he was accused of slapping and physically harassing her, police said.

“His behavior became more unruly, more violent,” said Fitzpatrick. “His mother had enough.”

He was twice hospitalized for emotional issues, and had a rap sheet that included a 2003 DWI arrest and 2015 bust for forcibly touching a woman.


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Aug-12-2017 410 0
The death of a federal prosecutor whose body was found on Hollywood Beach in May has been ruled a suicide, the Hollywood Police Department said Thursday.

James Beranton Whisenant Jr., a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to detectives and the medical examiner’s office. The body of the 37-year-old man was discovered on the edge of the water near Magnolia Terrace on May 24, 2017.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office family is deeply saddened by his death. He was a wonderful lawyer and great colleague," the office said in a statement after his death. "We will miss him deeply. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family."

Whisenant's LinkedIn profile said he has been an assistant U.S. attorney since January 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Florida in 2004 and had been a partner at Foley & Mansfield, PLLP, before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Whisenant was also an adjunct instructor at the University of Miami Paralegal Program.

AP Aug-12-2017 388 0
The parents of Kendrick Johnson have been ordered to pay $300,000 in legal fees for the people they accused of killing their son and covering up his death.

The ruling by Lowndes County Superior Court Judge Richard Porter is related to a 2015 wrongful death lawsuit filed by Johnson’s parents against brothers Brian and Branden Bell, who they say murdered their son.

–Kendrick Johnson surveillance video raises questions about whether teen was alone–

Johnson was found dead rolled up in a gym mat in June of 2013, and while investigators concluded that he had died from asphyxiation while reaching for a pair of sneakers, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson insisted that it was no accident.

They claimed that Brian and Branden’s father, FBI agent Rick Bell, along with a school superintendent and former sheriff, had rolled Johnson’s body in the mat and enlisted the superintendent’s daughters to “discover” the body.

“Judge Porter has now put those false accusations to rest and determined that the Johnsons’ and their lawyer’s accusations were substantially frivolous, groundless and vexatious,” said attorney Jim Elliott, who represents former Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine. “All of those who have been falsely accused have been vindicated. Truth prevails. Justice has been done.”

In addition to the Johnsons, their attorney, Chevene King, was also ordered to reimburse the almost two dozen defendants from that initial lawsuit.
RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA Aug-11-2017 410 0
Last month, before voting to release O.J. Simpson from prison after nine years, the Nevada parole board discussed in detail the robbery that put him behind bars and his conduct as an inmate. But one piece of Mr. Simpson’s record escaped the notice of the board, the news media, and most of the millions of people watching on television and online.

During the hearing on July 20, members of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners said that before his 2008 conviction for the robbery in a hotel in Las Vegas, Mr. Simpson had no history of a criminal conviction. That was incorrect.

As the world knows, Mr. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, in the most-watched trial in American history. But in 1989, he pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to misdemeanor battery of Ms. Simpson, who was then his wife.
The Nevada parole board did not have that information, officials with that agency said this week, so the 1989 conviction was not considered when a four-member panel voted unanimously to release him in October.

When states weigh the risk posed by an inmate, they routinely look through their own records, and also check with the National Crime Information Center, a set of enormous databases of records run by the F.B.I. Mr. Simpson’s 1989 conviction “did not appear in the N.C.I.C. history” when Nevada officials prepared a pre-sentencing report after his 2008 conviction, said David M. Smith, hearings examiner for the parole board.

He said the parole commissioners relied in part on the information in that 2008 report in assessing whether Mr. Simpson should be released. Mr. Smith’s response came in a written statement in response to questions from The New York Times, which began inquiring about Mr. Simpson’s record after a reader noted the 1989 case.

To see if it had made an error, the parole board checked the N.C.I.C. again after the inquiry by The Times. “This most recent report also makes no mention of the 1989 California court record,” Mr. Smith said.

The parole commissioners declined to be interviewed. Mr. Smith said it was impossible to tell whether knowing of the misdemeanor conviction would have influenced their decision on Mr. Simpson, who is 70, and who has had no disciplinary record from his time in prison. The decision is not subject to review unless Mr. Simpson violates the terms of his release.

Though a jury in Los Angeles found Mr. Simpson not guilty of killing Mr. Goldman and Ms. Simpson, a civil jury later found him responsible for their deaths. The killings have cast an inescapable shadow over every aspect of his life since then. Because he was acquitted of the murders, the Nevada parole board legally could not take that case into account in making its decision.

It is not clear why the 1989 case failed to turn up in the federal system, and California court officials said they did not have an explanation. But the omission highlights a frequent problem: There are major gaps in the databases, which rely primarily on accurate and complete reporting by local and state agencies.

The Justice Department has reported, for example, that states fail to transmit most of their active arrest warrants from their own databases into the federal system and often neglect to update records to show whether cases resulted in convictions. Some states still rely on paper files, making it likelier that they will not end up in the federal electronic records database, and that is even more of a problem with older records.

Gaps in the federal databases have often been noted in the context of background checks for gun purchasers, whose names are checked against those files, but far less attention has gone to the effect they have on other aspects of law enforcement, like sentencing and parole.

The F.B.I. said it could not comment on a specific case or the practices of individual agencies, but noted in a statement that participation “from our state and local partners is voluntary, not compulsory.”

Nevada officials noted that misdemeanor cases were sometimes expunged from the record years later, for defendants who stay out of trouble, and that records could be sealed by court order.
But the 1989 case appears, unsealed, in California’s database, where The Times was able to find it, and a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County courts confirmed that the conviction was never expunged, remaining a part of Mr. Simpson’s record. Under California law, a no-contest plea is a conviction.

Mr. Simpson’s lawyer at the parole hearing, Malcolm P. LaVergne, said he was aware of the earlier case, but did not know why California would not have submitted it to the federal database.
“I’m not a California lawyer,” he said. “There are questions here I can’t answer for you.”

In 2007, Mr. Simpson and a group of other men, two of them carrying guns, went to the Las Vegas hotel room of a sports memorabilia dealer and took hundreds of items from him. Mr. Simpson said he was merely reclaiming property that had been stolen from him, but he was convicted in 2008 of robbery, kidnapping and other charges.

A judge sentenced him to nine to 33 years in prison, but did not take the 1989 conviction into account because it was not in the pre-sentencing report. Mr. Simpson became eligible for parole for the first time this year.

At his parole hearing, Mr. Simpson said, “I basically have spent a conflict-free life” and “I’ve always been a guy that got along with everybody,” though Ms. Simpson and others had said he beat her multiple times.

The 1989 case was reported by news media at the time, and received a fresh round of attention after Mr. Simpson became a suspect in the murders.

In that case, prosecutors charged that early on New Year’s Day, at the Simpson home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, Mr. Simpson punched, kicked and slapped his wife while yelling “I’ll kill you.” He first denied the accusations, but a few months later, he pleaded no contest to one count of spousal battery.

The charge carried a maximum sentence of a year in jail, but a judge opted not to incarcerate Mr. Simpson, instead ordering him to perform community service and receive counseling.
Peter Sblendorio Aug-08-2017 86 0
An Atlanta rapper who called himself "bulletproof" after he was shot 10 times and survived was killed by an unidentified gunman Sunday evening in DeKalb County, Ga., according to officials.

Yung Mazi — who had collaborated with big-name artists such as Rich Homie Quan and Yung Thug — was gunned down in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s office said.

The shooting occurred at around 8:55 p.m. when the rapper, 31, appeared to be leaving the Urban Pie pizza restaurant.

Atlanta Police did not disclose his identity in their police report, but confirmed a 31-year-old male died in the area after sustaining multiple gun wounds. Authorities responded to the scene after hearing gunshots outside the the department's Zone 6 precinct, which is located nearby.

Officials said no suspects are in custody, and the investigation for the rapper's shooter is ongoing.

Yung Mazi, whose real name was Jabril Abdur-Rahman, claimed in a video last year that he had survived 10 gunshots during his lifetime. He tweeted last December that "God made me bulletproof" following a shooting at a Waffle House in Buckhead, Ga.

The rapper's brother, Luqman Abdur-Rahman, asked for privacy in a short phone conversation with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"We're praying for him and all involved," he told the newspaper.

Yung Mazi's colleague Rich Homie Quan, meanwhile, paid tribute to the artist by sharing an Instagram photo of his late collaborator counting money.

"Rest easy Mazi," he captioned the picture.
Ian Cummings Aug-03-2017 61 0
NAACP officials say their recent travel advisory for Missouri is the first that the civil rights group has issued for any state.

But the warning follows a recent trend of similar alerts issued by other groups for vulnerable people around the United States.

The travel advisory, circulated in June by the Missouri NAACP and recently taken up by the national organization, comes after travel alerts began appearing in recent years in light of police shootings in the U.S. and ahead of immigration legislation in Texas and Arizona.

The Missouri travel advisory is the first time an NAACP conference has ever made one state the subject of a warning about discrimination and racist attacks, a spokesman for the national organization said Tuesday.

Missouri became the first because of recent legislation making discrimination lawsuits harder to win, and in response to longtime racial disparities in traffic enforcement and a spate of incidents cited as examples of harm coming to minority residents and visitors, say state NAACP leaders.

Those incidents included racial slurs against black students at the University of Missouri and the death earlier this year of 28-year-old Tory Sanders, a black man from Tennessee who took a wrong turn while traveling and died in a southeast Missouri jail even though he hadn’t been accused of a crime.

“How do you come to Missouri, run out of gas and find yourself dead in a jail cell when you haven’t broken any laws?” asked Rod Chapel, the president of the Missouri NAACP.

“You have violations of civil rights that are happening to people. They’re being pulled over because of their skin color, they’re being beaten up or killed,” Chapel said. “We are hearing complaints at a rate we haven’t heard before.”

At the same time, Chapel said, the state government is throwing up barriers to people seeking justice in the courts for discrimination. The travel advisory cites legislation signed by Gov. Eric Greitens that will make it more difficult to sue for housing or employment discrimination.

Asked about the travel advisory on Friday in Kansas City, Greitens said he hadn’t seen it yet. His office did not return messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

The new law on discrimination lawsuits takes effect Aug. 28, and Chapel urged people to file any complaints they have before then.

Chapel, who was silenced by a Missouri House committee chairman while speaking against the legislation earlier this year, said he was especially alarmed that the University of Missouri System backed an earlier version of the bill.

The NAACP’s advisory also cites the most recent attorney general’s report showing black drivers in Missouri were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites. Those reports have been showing the disparity since the attorney general began releasing the data in 2000.

In May, the owner of a Blue Springs barbershop found his shop windows stained with racial slurs. The same two words appeared on three separate windows in black paint: “Die (N-word).”

“The advisory is for people to be aware, and warn their families and friends and co-workers of what could happen in Missouri,” Chapel said. “People need to be ready, whether it’s bringing bail money with them, or letting relatives know they are traveling through the state.”

AP Jul-31-2017 98 0
Allen Iverson did not show up for the Big3's games in Dallas, and the league says it is investigating his absence.

The former NBA MVP is the biggest star in Ice Cube's 3-on-3 league of former NBA players. Iverson signed on as a player and coach of Three's Company for the league's inaugural season.

He hasn't been playing very much - he didn't play at all in his much-hyped return to Philadelphia - and the league says in a statement it had no advance notice that Iverson wouldn't attend the game Sunday.

The league says it will make a statement once it has gathered all the facts surrounding Iverson's absence.

DerMarr Johnson, the team's co-captain, took over the coaching duties Sunday.
Omar Villafranca Jul-27-2017 114 0
A police supervisor in Texas is defending the actions of a constable who was in a confrontation last week with a young man. Millions have seen the cellphone video, and some believe the constable crossed the line.

The cellphone video captures a moment when a Harris County constable stopped 20-year-old Marlin Gipson as he and his brothers were passing out business cards for his lawn service last week.
"I'm kind of busy, I'm trying to make money," Gipson can be heard saying in the video.

The officer then says, "Yeah, but when I saw you, you were going from door to door."
Gipson did not have an ID card on him when asked by the officer.

Then, the situation got tense, after Gipson asked the constable for his information.
"Tell you what," the officer says. "Just turn around and put your hands around your back."
"For what? Hey! Nope," Gipson says. He instead left the scene.

Gipson spoke with CBS News and showed us the business cards he was handing out.
"I would still be doing this right here," Gipson said as he fanned out the cards in his hand. "Lawn service, making money that's the goal… trying to support our family."

Constable administrator Alen Rosen said Gipson left because of an outstanding misdemeanor assault warrant.

"So when originally stopped and questioned by the officer, that was why he really didn't want to say who we was," Rosen said.

Constables came to his house later that day. Gipson recorded that, too. He said constables broke down his door, tased him and sicced a K-9 on him that left bite marks on his arm.

"I can't even lift certain stuff no more," Gipson told us. "My arm is still numb in certain spots. I can barely lift it up."

But Rosen says his officers did nothing wrong.

"We gave Mr. Gipson, before the police dog went upstairs, we told him four different times, we even yelled, 'police dog, police dog come out,'" Rosen explained.

The Harris County constable says they have body camera video that backs up their side of the story, but they have not released it.
L.M. Sixel Jul-25-2017 110 0
Bass Pro Outdoor World, the sporting goods retailer with 82 stores, agreed to pay $10.5 million to settle a nationwide class action case brought in Houston by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which accused the outdoor outfitter of rejecting qualified black and Hispanic job applicants and retaliating against employees who objected to the alleged practice.

The money will go to compensate eligible black and Hispanic job seekers who were not hired, according to the agreement filed Monday in federal court in Houston. The proposed settlement has yet to be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison, who is overseeing the six-year-old case.

Bass Pro, which has two stores in the Houston area, also agreed to establish a diversity office and find job candidates by participating in job fairs in minority communities and recruiting at colleges with significant minority populations. Bass Pro maintains that it did not engage in any unlawful activities based on race or national origin nor in any retaliatory conduct, according to the agreement.

"The company is fully committed to the expansion of its ongoing efforts to attract a more diverse workforce," according to a written statement from Bass Pro. A portion of the $10.5 million payment may be devoted to programs that engage inner city youth in outdoor activities.

The settlement comes as Bass Pro, of Springfield, Mo., looks to complete a $4 billion deal to acquire its rival, Nebraska-based Cabela's. Anti-trust regulators at the Federal Trade Commission cleared the deal earlier this month, but Bass Pro is still waiting approval from banking regulators to the spin off Cabala's banking operations, including its credit card business.

Rudy Sustaita, EEOC regional attorney, said he could not comment on the proposed deal until it is approved by Ellison. The agreement does not specify how many job applicants would share the $10.5 million or the expected value of each award.

If approved by Ellison, the agreement would end the long government investigation into the hiring practices at one of the nation's most prominent outdoor outfitters. It started a decade ago when a white manager at the Bass Pro Outdoor World store in Katy reported to the EEOC that she was fired when she complained to her boss about mistreatment of black job applicants and employees.

The EEOC built its case on evidence provided by her and other managers, eventually concluding that the company's practice of not hiring minorities was part of a nationwide pattern. The EEOC analyzed Bass Pro's hiring data and found that black employees were underrepresented in more than 95 percent of the stores while Hispanic employees were underrepresented in more than 70 percent, according to court records.

A company-wide policy of favoring whites and discriminating against minorities became known as "the Profile," according to the EEOC's amended 2014 lawsuit. "Only white applicants fit the Profile," according to the complaint.

The EEOC also accused Bass Pro of destroying employment applications, according to court documents.

Bass Pro noted Monday that a critical element of the tentative agreement is an acknowledgement by the EEOC that allegations of discrimination against Bass Pro founder John Morris were found to be "false and without merit." The EEOC had contended in 2013 and 2014 that Morris was the architect behind the company's white-only "Profile," according to court records.

As part of the agreement, the EEOC agreed to remove references to Morris in an amended complaint filed in federal court Monday.

Bass Pro was founded in 1972 by Morris in the back of his father's liquor store in Springfield, Mo., according to the company's web site. Today, the stores draw more than 120 million shoppers annually and feature aquariums and lavish wildlife displays.

The company touts itself as a tourist attraction that can spawn other economic development and grew by aggressively seeking public funding to finance its stores. At the time the EEOC lawsuit was filed in 2011, Bass Pro had received more than $500 million in taxpayer subsidies, according to the Public Accountability Initiative, a watchdog group in Buffalo, N.Y.

Bass Pro noted that the agreement it reached with the EEOC was similar to a nationwide deal the agency reached with Cabela's in September 2015. Cabela's agreed to improve its hiring and recruitment of minorities to resolve an EEOC charge that the 86-store chain failed to recruit and hire minorities.

With the EEOC lawsuit settled, Bass Pro said it can focus its full attention on merging with Cabela's.
Graham Rayman Jul-25-2017 148 0
A beloved barber was gunned down outside a Queens eatery early Tuesday, hours after he fired off a social media post taunting his rivals.

“N----- taking shots can’t stop me,” Zanu Simpson wrote in an Instagram caption containing emojis of a gun and two bombs.

“They ain’t real enough.”

The 32-year-old Simpson was found shot in the head inside his white BMW X5 about 12:15 a.m., police said.

The car was parked outside the Breezes Highland Bar & Grill on S. Conduit Ave. in Rosedale, where Simpson had spent the night and left without incident, sources said.

A motorist who called 911 told cops she saw a man in a charcoal gray sweatshirt leaning into the BMW’s driver side window and punching the victim.

As she zoomed past, she heard a gunshot. The woman told police she doubled back and found the driver slumped in his seat with bullet wounds, cops said.

The gunman shot Simpson three times before taking off, cops said.

Investigators found at the scene a gun believed to be the murder weapon and a live round.

Paramedics rushed the mortally-wounded Simpson to Jamaica Hospital, but doctors couldn’t save him.

Simpson, who worked with his brother at the Strickly Skillz Barbershop in Hollis, was pronounced dead just before 1 a.m., sources said.

“That was like my other half,” said the victim’s brother Samuel Simpson, 35.

“Everybody says we looked alike. They always called us twins.”

The strapping, Jamaican-born victim, known to his friends as “Z,” was obsessed with sports as a child and graduated from Bayside High School, relatives and pals said.

Cutting hair didn’t come easily to Simpson at first. But he eventually joined his brother at the popular barbershop frequented by NBA star Kevin Durant and other celebrities.

“I taught him how to cut hair and at first he didn’t take to it but eventually he got in and came into the business with me,” Samuel Simpson said.

A handful of mourners carrying candles showed up at Strickly Skillz Tuesday morning to pay tribute to Simpson.

“He’s wonderful,” said customer Emily Laguerre, 51.

“He’ll never say no, even if you don’t have the money. He’ll say pay me next week ... It’s so sad to see life taken like this.”

Simpson had racked up more than 16,000 followers on Instagram where he often posted photos of his barbershop handiwork.

“May the spineless bastard who took you have no peace for the rest of their sorry ass life,” one of his followers wrote Tuesday.
Jul-25-2017 575 0
Lucky Whitehead was telling the TRUTH -- he was not the man arrested for shoplifting on June 22, this according to Prince William County officials who say the REAL perp was an imposter.

We spoke with Commonwealth's attorney, Paul Ebert, who says the case against ex-Dallas Cowboys WR Lucky Whitehead has been dropped after an internal investigation into the arrest.

Long story short ... Ebert says the man was only "verbally identified" by the arresting officer at the crime scene. The arrestee did not have I.D. on him.

The man told cops he was Lucky Whitehead and gave them Lucky's information including birthday and social security number, Ebert says.

The officers ran the information through the DMV system and believed the man they had arrested the matched the photo of "Lucky Whitehead" that was on file.

After Lucky publicly declared his innocence, claiming he wasn't even in the state of Virgnia at the time of the arrest, officers went back and reviewed surveillance video at the convenience store. Footage showed the suspect was NOT Lucky Whitehead.

Cops are now on the hunt for the man in the video.

Lucky's agent, Dave Rich, tells TMZ Sports, "Lucky is thrilled justice was served and his name was cleared. It's a shame that he came into town to do a camp for kids and he ended up getting cut by his professional football team."

The Prince William County Police Dept. has also issued a statement:

"Upon reviewing the June 22, 2017 arrest of an individual named 'Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.', the police department is confident that the man charged with petit larceny, and who is subsequently being sought on an active warrant for failure to appear in court, is not Lucky Whitehead of the Dallas Cowboys."

"The man charged on the morning of June 22 was not in possession of identification at the time of the encounter; however, did verbally provide identifying information to officers, which included a name, date of birth, and social security number matching that of Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr."

"Officers then checked this information through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database. The DMV photo on file was then used to compare to the man who was in custody."

"Officers acted in good faith that, at the time, the man in custody was the same man matching the information provided. At this point, the police department is also confident in confirming that Mr. Whitehead’s identify was falsely provided to police during the investigation."

"The police department is currently seeking the identity of the man involved in the incident. Since the identifying information provided by the arrestee during the investigation was apparently false, the police department is working with the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to clear Mr. Whitehead from this investigation."

"The police department regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family."
Andrew J. Goudsward Jul-21-2017 140 0
A week after the murder of 11-year-old AbbieGail "Abbie" Smith in New Jersey, the girl's grief-stricken father and sister in Jamaica made an impassioned plea to President Trump to allow them into the United States to attend the girl's funeral Monday.

In an exclusive video to APP.com, father Kenroy Smith tearfully asked Trump to intervene after AbbieGail's older sister Kenish had her visa application denied. The visa for Kenroy, who had previously been deported from the U.S. on a drug charge 16 years ago, remained in limbo.

The Smiths said they were desperate to come to Keansburg to pay their final respects to AbbieGail and to see where she had been fatally stabbed last week. They feared they would miss their only chance to say goodbye.

"My dear little AbbieGail was taken away and I need to pay my last respects to her," Kenroy Smith said breaking down in tears. "That's all I'm asking."

Kenish, the sister, said her temporary visa application was rejected Wednesday. She said she wasn't given a reason, but officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, questioned her about her occupation as a cosmetologist and her ties to her home country before making the decision.
Kenish said she showed officials AbbieGail's death certificate and a letter from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, but she was still turned down for a visa.

A State Department official said visa applications are judged on a case-by-case basis and the department doesn't comment on individual cases.

"AbbieGail Smith needs her sister there at the moment," she said. "Who's going to stand up for us? We have no control. We can't do it on our own."

Kenroy Smith said he would find out Friday whether he would be granted entry to the United States.
"She's my daughter. She's my everything," he said. "Please let me see my daughter for the last day before she goes under."

AbbieGale's body was found July 13 wrapped in a blanket on the roof of her apartment building hours after she was reported missing, authorities said. She was killed by a stab wound to the neck.
Smith's upstairs neighbor Andreas Erazo has been charged with her murder. He is in the Monmouth County Jail awaiting a bail hearing.

AbbieGail will be buried Monday following a Mass at St. Ann's Church in Keansburg.

Kenroy Smith said he was unsure whether he would be allowed into the country. He was deported from the United States to Jamaica in 2001 following a marijuana arrest.
"I'm not worried. I'm just praising God," he said.

Latisha Smith, one of AbbieGail's sisters who lives in Maryland, said she has been up early every day this week writing emails to elected officials and going to local immigration offices in a frantic last-ditch effort to help her father and sister get visas.

"Every minute it's like I'm hitting a roadblock, but I'm just not going to stop," she said. "I'm not stopping until they're here."

Latisha Smith said AbbieGail frequently visited her father in Jamaica and that Kenroy had developed a special bond with his youngest daughter.

"We're a family. We all need to be together for AbbieGail," she said. "The government — I just hope they hear my cry."
Thomas Novelly Jul-21-2017 133 0
A former Miss Kentucky USA from Louisville is accused of smuggling drugs into an Ohio prison for an inmate.

Kia Hampton, 28, was arrested on May 26 in Allen County, Ohio, after police say she was caught smuggling marijuana into the Allen Correctional Institution for Jeremy Kelly, an inmate at the facility, according to an affidavit detailing the arrest.

Hampton was crowned Miss Kentucky USA in November 2010 when she was 21 years old. She was the first African American chosen to represent Kentucky in the Miss USA pageant.

While listening to recorded phone calls, officers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol said they obtained enough evidence to obtain a warrant for a cavity search.

As officers were interrogating her, Hampton reached into her pant leg and pushed a white balloon on to the floor, the affidavit said.

Officers later determined that she was carrying 2.82 grams of marijuana into the jail, Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Kenneth Sturgill said.

She was indicted on July 13 by an Allen County grand jury and faces one count of "illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto the grounds of a specified governmental facility," a third-degree felony that carries a three-year prison sentence.

Hampton is scheduled to be arraigned July 26 in Allen County.
Jul-20-2017 107 0
Naheed Rajwani Jul-19-2017 77 0
Dallas will have its first female police chief by the end of the summer.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax has chosen Detroit Deputy Police Chief Ulysha Renee Hall from a pool of seven finalists, three of them internal candidates.

"It was a difficult choice," Broadnax said at City Hall Wednesday, "but I believe Renee Hall will be a dynamic chief."

Dallas' chief position has been vacant since October, when Chief David Brown retired from the department. Assistant Chief of Police David Pughes ran the department as interim chief while officials searched for a permanent replacement.

Pughes didn’t apply for the job, but three insiders did: Deputy Chiefs Malik Aziz and Rick Watson and Assistant Chief Gary Tittle.

Dallas city managers have chosen to hire outsiders for the top cop job multiple times in the last few decades. Three consecutive chiefs — Mack Vines, Bill Rathburn and Ben Click — all came to the city after careers in departments outside the state.

Aziz, who has been a finalist in several other cities, was a favorite among officers to become the next chief. He had no comment Wednesday about the chief selection.

The city manager’s office initially selected eight people as finalists for the job, but Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye withdrew his application.

The city manager touted Hall's passion for public service and said she has the right tools to solve the department's key challenges.

"Chief Hall is a proven leader with a stellar background," Broadnax said. "These are qualities I believe are critical as we tackle crime to make our city safer while addressing organizational and policy issues within the department."

City officials say Hall will formally take over Sept. 5.

Three women — Hall, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson — now have some of the most powerful law enforcement jobs in the Dallas area.

Hall, who has been on the force in Detroit since 1999, has dealt with several issues paralleling crises in Dallas. These include the increasing homeless population and the loose-dogs issue that has affected low-income neighborhoods.

She now oversees officers on the east side of the city.
Jul-19-2017 108 0
The boyfriend of a woman who was shot and left for dead outside of a Midlands hospital has now been charged with her murder, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

Albertus Lewis is now charged with murder and obstruction of justice.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department said the victim, identified as Mayra Sanchez, 20, was dropped off about 4:30 a.m. July 5 at Palmetto Health Richland.

Sanchez later died at the hospital.

Deputies said Lewis placed Sanchez inside the wheelchair and left.
Bernie Woodall Jul-19-2017 106 0
A 25-year-old South Carolina woman was in jail on Tuesday on a murder charge for the death of her 13-month-old daughter, who police said she left in a car last month while she went to a hair salon in suburban Atlanta.

The mother, DiJanelle Fowler, kept the car running with the air conditioning on, but the car's battery died while she was inside the beauty shop in Tucker, Georgia, on June 15, said DeKalb County Police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell.

Police believe Skylar Fowler was dead by the time her mother returned to the car a few hours later, Campbell said.

"Instead of calling 911, she called roadside assistance to get her battery jumped," Campbell said in a phone interview.

Fowler concealed the baby from the person who helped restart her car, then went to a hospital and called 911, Campbell said.

The mother told police she herself had passed out from some sort of medical condition, Campbell said. But the child's condition indicated she had died sooner than the time Fowler suggested, the police spokeswoman said.

The high temperature in DeKalb County that day was 92 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Twenty-three U.S. children have died so far this year after being left in hot cars, up from 20 through mid-July in 2016, according to the nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, which tracks such deaths.

In all, 39 children died in hot cars in 2016. The highest annual number was recorded in 2010, when 49 children died, said Janette Fennell, founder and president of the KidsAndCars.org.

Children ages 3 and younger account for 87 percent of the hot-car deaths the group has tracked, she said.

Fowler left the Atlanta area after her daughter's death. She was arrested late on Monday after turning herself in to DeKalb County Police, who had been searching for her, Campbell said.

In addition to the second-degree murder charge, she also is charged with second-degree cruelty to children and concealing a death, jail records show. Court records did not show whether Fowler had hired a lawyer.
Jul-17-2017 175 0
The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed a woman who called 911 has been identified.
According to police sources, the officer has been identified as Mohamed Noor.

Noor joined the Minneapolis Police Department in March of 2015. He was celebrated as the first Somali officer for the 5th Precinct. He graduated from Augsburg College in 2011 with a degree in business administration.

In May of 2016, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges recognized Noor, calling his assignment a "wonderful sign of building trust and community policing at work."

Noor is currently on paid administrative leave, along with the other officer that was on scene.
According to police sources, Noor shot across his partner and out the window of the squad car, striking Damond. When Noor opened fire, his partner was "stunned," according to the source.

Noor has two open complaints against him from 2017 and one from 2016.
The BCA released a statement on Monday saying no weapons were found at the scene of the shooting. They say interviews with the officers have been requested but have not yet been completed.

The woman killed was identified by family, friends and clients as Justine Damond, a spiritual healer from Australia, who was also a bride-to-be. The BCA says the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office has conducted its autopsy and will formally release her identity and cause of death, once all family notifications have been completed.

Family of Damond say she initially called 911 after hearing a noise in a back alley.
The son of Damond's fiance said in a Facebook live video Sunday that, "My mom is dead because a police officer shot her for reasons I don't know, and I demand answers."

In a news release, authorities said the officers were responding to a call of a possible assault, just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South, just before 11:30 p.m.

They say an officer fired his weapon and killed the woman but many questions remain.
No video of the incident has surfaced.

According to the news release, "The officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident. Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video of the incident exists."

The BCA reiterated that it does not determine whether a law enforcement agency policy was violated -- that decision will be reviewed through the department's internal affairs process.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau released a statement Monday afternoon saying, "This is clearly a tragic death."

She said there are a lot of unanswered questions -- many of which she's pushing to get the answers to as quickly as possible.
Fox 4 Jul-17-2017 161 0
Fired Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver has been indicted for murder for the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.

A Dallas County grand jury returned the indictment for Oliver Monday on one count of murder and four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant, according to Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.
  
"It is important to let our community know that justice is proceeding effectively and thoroughly at the Dallas County DA's Office," Johnson said. "This is the very first time we have issued an arrest warrant for a police officer before the case was presented to a grand jury. As we move forward, my office continues to be committed to seeking justice for Jordan and his family. You have my personal guarantee that we will prosecute this case vigorously."

Oliver, 31, was one of the responding officers on a call about a loud party on the night of April 29. Edwards was in a vehicle with three other teenagers leaving the party. Police said the car was driving away from the officers when Oliver fired a rifle into the vehicle and killed Edwards.
Oliver has already been indicted for two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant for a separate incident before the deadly shooting.
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