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Liz Farmer Mar-22-2017 245 0
An 18-year-old Texas woman's claim that she was abducted and assaulted two weeks ago were a hoax, Denison police said Wednesday.

The incident caused a whirlwind of speculation in the town near the Oklahoma border after the bloody woman ran into a church wearing only a shirt, bra and underwear and lied about two black men raping her while a third held her down, Denison Police Chief Jay Burch said.

The woman, identified as Breana Harmon Talbott, confessed to the hoax Tuesday, Burch said.

Talbott was arrested Wednesday on a charge of making a false report to a peace officer.
Police still aren't completely clear on the teen's motive, Denison police Lt. Mike Eppler later said.

In a searing statement, Burch said Talbott caused fear in the area and wasted the department's time and resources.

"Breana Harmon Talbott's hoax was also insulting to our community and especially offensive to the African-American community due to her description of the so-called suspects in her hoax. The anger and hurts caused from such a hoax are difficult and so unnecessary."

The Denison Police Department also plans to seek restitution for the cost of the investigation.
"It's unfortunate a person can falsely report such a major incident in our community that wastes the time of law enforcement and needlessly puts some people in fear," Burch said.

The department believes Talbott staged the crime scene March 8. She also admitted that the cuts on her body were self-inflicted.

Officers initially responded to a call from a man, who described himself as her fiancé and claimed she was missing. He said her vehicle had been found outside an apartment in the 3800 block of Texoma Parkway about 5:30 p.m. with the driver's door open and her phone, keys and a shoe nearby.

The department mobilized all available resources to look for her, even putting other cases aside to focus on the apparent abduction.

She later walked into New Creation Church, in the 3400 block of South Eisenhower Parkway, where she told witnesses she'd been kidnapped and sexually assaulted in the woods behind the building.
Talbott told detectives she was near her vehicle at the apartment when "three black males" in ski masks kidnapped her in a black SUV before raping her.

She was taken to a hospital, where, Burch said, "it is our understanding that medical personnel who examined Talbott were unable to corroborate that Talbott had been sexually assaulted."
Within a day or two of the incident, detectives doubted most of her allegations.

"The puzzle pieces just weren't coming together," Burch said. "We were unable to corroborate any of Talbott's allegations that she had been abducted or sexually assaulted."
EVAN GROSSMAN Mar-21-2017 104 0
Colin Kaepernick may be out of a job and he may have pledged to end his kneeling protest of the national anthem, but he continues his work to make the world a better place.

Kaepernick recently made twin $50,000 donations to Meals on Wheels America and the Love Army for Somalia, a social media campaign that’s trying to raise $2 million for food and water for starving people in that African nation.

Since he began his social justice crusade last year, Kaepernick has donated an estimated $500,000 to assorted charities and community groups. On the free-agent quarterback’s website, kaepernick7.com, there is a running log of the donations he’s made.

In January, the last month listed on the site, Kaepernick donated $25,000 each to Brooklyn-based Black Veterans for Social Justice and 350.org, the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, and the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

Since October, Kaepernick has donated $100,000 a month, mostly in $25,000 increments, to a variety of social and community programs dedicated to helping the less fortunate among us.

While President Donald Trump, among others, continues to rip Kaepernick for kneeling during the “Star-Spangled Banner” (and recently presented a federal budget that aims to de-fund programs like Meals on Wheels), Kaepernick has worked to improve the lives of veterans, poor people, minorities, women and immigrants.

It makes you wonder, exactly, who is really working to Make America Great, and who is full of it.
MOLLY CRANE-NEWMAN Mar-21-2017 75 0
A brutal Bronx nanny was sentenced Tuesday to up to four years in prison for fatally stomping a 20-month-old boy in a bizarre wrestling match at her home day-care center.

The dead boy’s parents choked back tears as Athena Skeeter stood only a few feet away to hear Judge Miriam Best impose the sentence.

Little Cardell Williamson was killed in August 2014 while under the care of Skeeter, 42, a state-licensed day-care provider. She arrived in court wearing prison beige prison garb for the hearing.

In a strange twist, the suspect — who took a March 2 plea deal to a manslaughter count — could possibly walk out of prison in the very near future.

The sentence is 1 1/3-to-4 years in prison, and Skeeter has already served more than two years behind bars. The state parole board will determine her release date — or if she does all four years.

Authorities said Skeeter placed the mortally injured boy into a scalding hot tub after throwing the child on a hardwood floor and stomping on his stomach.

She also acknowledged throwing her own son on top of Cardell — and then stepping on both boys another three times.

“Never got to take him trick-or-treating, Halloween,” said the morose Williamson, 58. “Doing a real good birthday where he understands. I missed all that.

“I missed all them Kodak moments.”

Cheatham, 35, stood with tears in her eyes as prosecutor Danielle Pascale read her victim impact statement.

“I’m just kind of upset that it turned out the way it did,” said Cheatham after the hearing. “I think it is not enough time.”

But the DA’s office said the parents signed off on the deal allowing Skeeter to plead down from a murder charge.

“Three years of misery’s enough for me,“ said Williamson. “I’m just trying to maintain my sanity, what I have left, and move on to the next battle.”
Ian Auzenne Mar-18-2017 134 0
OPELOUSAS - Three former Westminster Christian Academy students accused of hanging a noose on campus are now charged with intent to intimidate and public display of a noose.

The school released an updated statement today, which says that none of the students involved are enrolled at the school now.

Judah Benjamin Barber, 18, surrendered to deputies at the St. Landry Parish Jail after warrant was issued for his arrest. He was booked and bonded out. The two other students, both juveniles, were booked and released into their parents' custody.

Sheriff Bobby Guidroz says he moved forward with the charges after an investigation found enough probable cause to arrest the students.

"This kind of incident should never happen and will affect both sides the rest of their lives," Sheriff Guidroz said in a press release. "Jokes or actions like this are hateful, humiliating, and degrading to the persons who they are directed to and will cast a very dark shadow on the students that preformed the actions for the rest of their lives."
Paula Rogo Mar-18-2017 105 0
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick continues to make philanthropic waves after securing a way to provide relief to the people of Somalia.

After joining a Twitter campaign begging Turkish Airlines to send a cargo plane with aid, the former quarterback announced on Twitter Friday that he had secured one from the airline to bring supplies to the East African nation.

Colin Kaepernick ? @Kaepernick7
We got the plane! Now it's time to raise funds for food and water. You can donate at http://GoFundMe.com/lovearmyforsomalia … #LoveArmyForSomalia

“Amazing news, Turkish Airlines granted us an airplane to fly to Somalia, a 60-ton cargo plane so we can fly there with food, with water for these people,” said Kaepernick in a video. “Now we’ve started a GoFundMe page to allow anyone to help us donate food, donate water. We’ll make sure every cent goes to help these people.”

Turkish Airlines is one of the few that travel to Somalia, and the flight is expected to take place March 27.

The GoFundMe page’s goal is $1 million, a number it quickly surpassed in 24 hours.

“This is a victory for the people, this is a victory for the people of Somalia,” said Kaepernick. “It was done out of love, out of respect for these people. We wanted to bring structure to this so we’re going to use the name Love Army for Somalia. So use the #LoveArmyforSomalia. This is amazing, let’s keep building, let’s keep going.”
TERENCE CULLEN Mar-18-2017 126 0
An unarmed man was shot to death by Tennessee cops — after they claim he tried to run him over while acting unstable — recorded the shooting live on Facebook.

Rodney James Hess, 36, streamed two videos Thursday as he sat in his parked SUV, which cops said was blocking an off-ramp in Alamo, Tenn. He was shot after police claim they became worried he’d mow them down with his car.

Hess was transported to a hospital where he later died. Cops responded to calls around 2:15 Thursday afternoon that a truck was parked sideways on a highway exit.

The first video captures mostly before cops arrive. The 17-minute recording is relatively quiet and shows the car moving before the first Crockett County deputy arrives.

Family of mentally ill Ky. man shot by police demanding answers
Hess was acting “erratic” by the time more deputies arrived at the scene, said Josh DeVine, spokesman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Hess allegedly attempted to run deputies over twice during this unstable period, he added.

“At one point, preliminary information indicates Hess tried to use his vehicle, his SUV, to strike the officers at least twice,” DeVine told reporters Thursday night.

In the second video — which lasts just more than a minute — deputies are seen surrounding Hess’ car.

Hess' fiance told a local newspaper he was suffering from bipolar disorder. (VIA FACEBOOK)
Repeatedly, Hess is heard asking to speak with “the higher commands.”

“I would like the higher commands to come out,” he says in the video.

That’s when his car is seen moving in reverse. A deputy at the driver’s window waves something in his hand.

Then gun shots are heard, followed by Hess screaming in pain. The car is then seen moving before coming to a halt.

DeVine said a deputy shot Hess through his windshield as authorities became concerned he’d run them over.

“The information suggests that multiple officers were at risk of injury when this situation escalated,” he said.

Hess then drove his car “a short distance away” before crashing into a ravine, DeVine said.

Hess was shot by police after deputies surrounded his car as seen on his Facebook Live stream.
The slain man was not armed at the time, DeVine said, but added cops considered his car a weapon.

The videos don’t show Hess trying to run police over, but it appears there’s a time gap between the two recordings.

In an email to the Daily News, DeVine said TBI is aware of the recordings, but have yet to confirm their validity at this point.

Hess had a New Orleans address, and authorities initially weren’t sure what he was doing in Tennessee.

But relatives told NBC News he moved to Tennessee from Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina.

His fiancé told the Jackson Sun that Hess suffered from bipolar disorder.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will hand over its findings to a district attorney general, who will then determine if cops acted improperly.
Danielle Douglas-Gabriel Mar-17-2017 159 0
After meetings with the Trump administration last month, leaders of historically black colleges and universities expressed cautious optimism that the increased funding they requested might actually make it into the White House budget. It did not.

Instead, Trump’s first presidential budget released Thursday calls for “maintaining” $492 million in appropriations for HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. Combined discretionary spending for those schools, however, is actually $577 million right now. The White House directed questions about the discrepancy to the Education Department, which did not respond to requests for comment.

There is no mention in the budget of any federal investment in scholarships, technology or campus infrastructure for historically black colleges that leaders requested. And instead of expanding Pell grants for low-income students to cover summer courses as they had asked, the budget raids nearly $4 billion from the program’s reserves.

“Less than three weeks ago, this administration claimed it is a priority to advocate for HBCUs but, after viewing this budget proposal, those calls ring hollow,” Rep. Alama Adams (D-N.C.), a graduate of the largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University, said in a statement.

Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, said the proposed appropriations could be a lot worse considering the total amount of cuts on the table for the Education Department. He said HBCU advocates had to fight the Obama administration for funding, and stressed that the lines of communication remain open with the current administration.

“This is a process,” Taylor said. “We’re already had phone calls with the administration to say that as we go into the specific lines of this budget, this is where we’d like you to consider increases. This is only stage one.”

There was plenty of skepticism when the Trump administration made overtures toward black school leaders, including from students who questioned whether their college presidents were only being used for photo ops. It didn’t help when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called historically black institutions “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” a statement that HBCU advocates said ignored that the schools were a response to racist Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation.

Despite the controversy, HBCU leaders remained focused on funding and held out hope that Trump’s executive order regarding their schools would include some money. It did not. The order, signed in February, directs the White House initiative on HBCUs to operate from the White House instead of the Education Department. While some viewed the move as a signal that the more than 100 historically black schools were a priority for the administration, others said it was purely symbolic without monetary support.

At the time, United Negro College Fund President Michael L. Lomax, who attended the ceremonial signing, lamented the lack of financial support in the order, noting that none of the funding recommendations were included. Nevertheless, he encouraged HBCU advocates to continue to work with the administration and Congress. On Thursday, the UNCF urged the president to reconsider federal funding commitments and sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney reiterating recommendations made during last month’s meetings.

“President Trump pledged to do more for HBCUs than any other president has done before. However, this budget is not reflective of that sentiment,” Lomax said Thursday. “Without strong federal investments, President Trump’s commitment to HBCUs and the rebuilding of African American communities will be promises unfulfilled.”

Historically black schools educated nearly 300,000 students in 2014, the latest figure available from the National Center for Education Statistics. Education Department data shows that three-quarters of all doctorates awarded to African Americans and 80 percent of black federal judges earned an undergraduate degree at historically black schools.

Though the federal government sets aside money in the budget for historically black colleges, those schools have not benefited from the same level of public funding as other institutions of higher education. The disparity in funding public HBCUs, in particular, has resulted in a series of lawsuits, including a decade-old case in Maryland that is still being fought in the courts.

“You can’t just have a photo op for HBCUs and not create more funding for them,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said on a call with reporters Thursday. “These schools have been under austerity for years, and if they’re going to compete with others, they need more funding.”
Taylor Lorenz Mar-17-2017 118 0
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on Friday called for President Trump to apologize to former President Obama for accusing him of "wiretapping" Trump Tower without evidence.

"I see no indication that's true. It's not a charge that I would ever have ever made, and frankly unless he can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think President Obama is owed an apology in that regard," Cole said.

"If he didn't do it, we shouldn't be reckless in accusations that he did."
Cole is the first GOP lawmaker to call for an apology, although other Republicans have questioned why Trump made the accusation without proof.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday defended Trump, saying: "The president has already been very clear that he didn't mean specifically wiretapping. He had it in quotes. So I think to fall back on that is a false premise. That's not what he said. He was very clear when he talked about it yesterday."

Spicer said Trump stood by his claim, after the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier Thursday said it sees "no indication that Trump Tower was a subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016."

Trump earlier this month wrote in a series of early Saturday morning tweets that "Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower" during the campaign, calling his predecessor a "bad (or sick) guy!"
Brian Lisi Mar-15-2017 117 0
Authorities are charging a 26-year-old man with the murder of a 2-year-old and the boy's uncle in Chicago, a shocking incident that was broadcast as it happened via Facebook Live.

Lazaric Collins, 26, was driving through the North Lawndale neighborhood on Valentine's Day with his pregnant girlfriend and nephew, Lavontay White, when their car was struck by gunfire, the Chicago Tribune reports.

As she sang along to some music, Collins' girlfriend was streaming their ride together on Facebook Live before Devon Swan allegedly shot at the vehicle, killing Lavontay and Collins while also wounding the unnamed woman.

She escaped the besieged car with her phone and ran to a nearby home for help, crying out that she had "a bullet in my stomach."

Shooting that killed Chicago toddler captured on Facebook Live
Both White and Collins were shot in the head.

Police believe Swan had intentionally targeted Collins, who they say was a documented gang member.

Collins' girlfriend, who is four months into her pregnancy, is in fair condition. Her unborn child also reportedly survived the attack despite the mother's gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Swan faces first-degree murder charges while authorities believe there will be additional arrests in the Tuesday afternoon attack.
RICH SCHAPIRO Mar-15-2017 121 0
The lawyer for a black Brooklyn man who was beaten in a racially-charged attack is accusing prosecutors of refusing to indict one of the assailants because of his family’s political ties.

Five Hasidic men were charged in the brutal assault of Taj Patterson, who was jumped four years ago while walking down a Williamsburg block.

But with the last defendant slated to be sentenced Thursday, Patterson’s lawyer is calling on the Brooklyn district attorney’s office to charge a man identified at trial as one of Patterson’s attackers.

“One token felony conviction does not placate Taj and his family, when one of the primary assailants remains protected for corrupt, political, and frankly, racial reasons,” Patterson’s civil attorney Andrew Stoll told the Daily News.

Sentencing postponed for Hasidic man who attacked gay black man
Stoll was referring to Yoelli “Joel” Itzkowitz, whose brother Yanky is the politically-connected coordinator of the Williamsburg Shomrim volunteer security patrol.

Two people who testified at the trial of suspect Mayer Herskovic — a witness to the assault and an NYPD detective who reviewed surveillance video — identified Itzkowitz as one of Patterson’s attackers.

Yet authorities never questioned Yoelli Itzkowitz, who is a member of the Shomrim along with some of the other men charged with attacking Patterson.

“One witness and an NYPD Detective have already identified Itzkowitz in court under oath. Two defendants copped out, can be subpoenaed, and can no longer plead the fifth,” Stoll said.

Hasidic men blow off suits for alleged beating of gay black man
Calls to Yoelli Itzkowitz were not immediately returned.

Herskovic, who is awaiting sentencing, is facing up to 15 years behind bars for his role in the attack.

Stall has written two letters to the DA’s office calling for the arrest of Itzkowitz. Neither was returned.

A spokesman from the prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the investigations and refused to say whether Itzkowitz was or is considered a suspect.

“We can only conclude that this DA's office remains unwilling to grant equal access to justice to all Brooklyn communities,” said Stoll.
Mar-15-2017 186 0
The FBI is actively investigating whether "additional people" were involved in a conspiracy by Heather Mack and her then-boyfriend to murder Mack's mother during a luxury vacation in Bali, a court filing made public Friday revealed.

The disclosure came in a search warrant seeking to extract information from Mack's iPhone, which was confiscated after her arrest in Bali in 2014 but remained locked because she refused to give investigators her password, court records show.

The phone had remained in the custody of Indonesian authorities until December, when it was turned over to the FBI in Jakarta and later brought to Chicago.

Mack, 21, and her ex-boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 23, were convicted by an Indonesian jury in 2015 of killing Sheila von Wiese-Mack and stuffing her body into a suitcase at a Bali resort hotel. Both are serving prison sentences — 10 years for Mack and 18 years for Schaefer.

Federal prosecutors had asked that the search warrant remain sealed, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez denied the request on Thursday.

Despite the couple's conviction, the warrant makes clear that the investigation into the murder continues — in part "to determine whether additional people may have been aware of and involved in the conspiracy."

The warrant's 29-page affidavit, filed under seal on Jan. 4, sought to have the phone analyzed by an FBI forensic specialist to extract text messages, call records, photographs and at least one "Facetime" chat Mack had with Schaefer during their trip to Bali, records show. If the specialist was unable to unlock the phone, prosecutors planned to serve Apple with a search warrant request for access to the device, the warrant said.

The warrant was filed as part of the case against Robert Bibbs, a cousin of Schaefer's who pleaded guilty in Chicago in December to helping plan the murder in exchange for $50,000 of Mack's expected inheritance money.

The confirmation of an ongoing federal investigation comes a year and a half after the Chicago Tribune first revealed that U.S. authorities had flown Indonesian law enforcement officials to Chicago at least twice in 2015 to answer questions about the murder.

Besides the murder itself, the victim's family has long questioned whether the daughter's $1.56 million trust fund might have been accessed to illegally bribe Indonesian officials during the criminal proceedings, the Tribune has reported.

The FBI, which has an office in the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, was involved in the murder investigation from the onset. Besides ensuring that the victim's body was flown back to the United States, federal agents assisted Bali police with technical support related to texts and emails on phones that belonged to the victim and Schaefer, records show.

After Mack and Schaefer were charged, a Cook County judge overseeing the trust fund case allowed about $150,000 to be wired in increments to the daughter's overseas criminal attorney. But after she had been found guilty, the judge balked at a demand for another $200,000 in one lump sum to pay for legal costs related to the appeal.

Lawyers have since been trying to hammer out a settlement with Mack in the trust matter, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, an unusual custody battle is playing out involving the daughter born to Mack and Schaefer while the two were awaiting trial. The girl, Stella, is next in line for the money.

Under Indonesian custom, she has been allowed to stay with her mother behind bars until her 2nd birthday on St. Patrick's Day. The girl's paternal grandmother has petitioned to become her legal guardian, but a Cook County judge refused the emergency request last week.

David Boroff Mar-15-2017 611 0
A pregnant 19-year-old Texas woman was fatally struck by a train while having photos taken of her on the tracks in a bid to launch her modeling career.

Fredzania Thompson attended Blinn College in Bryan but wanted to put her education on hold to begin modeling, her mother told the Eagle.

"That's definitely what she wanted to do," Hakamie Stevenson told the newspaper. "It's what she had started to do the day she was deceased."

Thompson was standing between two sets of tracks Friday in Navasota when a BNSF Railway train approached, according to the paper. She moved out of the way, but was apparently unaware that a Union Pacific train was coming in the opposite direction.
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The teen passed away from her injuries on her way to the hospital, according to the newspaper.

"Zanie had the most beautiful smile," fiancé Earl Chatman told the Eagle. "I believe she would want everyone to know what a kind and caring person she is."

Chatman, the father of a 7-year-old son, found out in recent weeks that Fredzania was going to give him another child.

"She said, 'You're going to be a dad again,'" the 25-year-old Chatman told the Eagle.

The funeral service for Fredzania will be held on Saturday. She would have turned 20 this past Monday.

"If you ever needed someone to talk to she was always there," wrote a description on a GoFundMe tribute.
NEKESA MUMBI Mar-12-2017 152 0
Joni Sledge, who with her sisters recorded the enduring dance anthem "We Are Family," has died, the band's representative said Saturday.

She was 60.

Sledge was found dead in her home by a friend in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday, the band's publicist, Biff Warren, said. A cause of death has not been determined. He said she had not been ill.

"On yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We welcome your prayers as we weep the loss of our sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin," read a family statement.

Sledge and her sisters Debbie, Kim and Kathy formed the Sister Sledge in 1971 in Philadelphia, their hometown, but struggled for years before success came.

"The four of us had been in the music business for eight years and we were frustrated. We were saying: 'Well, maybe we should go to college and just become lawyers or something other than music, because it really is tough,'" Joni told The Guardian in an interview last year.

But then they met Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of the hit group Chic, and their breakout soon came. The pair wrote and produced their album "We Are Family," and soon the women had their first major hit with disco jam "The Greatest Dancer," which became a top 10 hit in May 1979. (It would sampled years later for Will Smith's hit "Getting Jiggy Wit It.")

But their biggest hit would come a month later with the title track, an infectious dance anthem that celebrated their familial connection with the refrain, "We are family, I got all my sisters with me." While it celebrated their sisterhood, the 1979 hit so also became an anthem for female empowerment and unity. It would become their signature hit, and was nominated for a Grammy. Both the song and album sold more than one million copies.

The women also had a hit with a cover of the Mary Wells song "My Guy" in 1982, but would never duplicate the success they had in the 1970s. Still, Sister Sledge continued; while sister Kathy left the group for a solo career, the trio of sisters continued to perform and record, including a performance for Pope Francis in 2015.

Warren said they last performed together in concert in October.

Joni Sledge is survived by an adult son, her sisters and other relatives.
Mar-11-2017 298 0
A judge has slashed the monthly child support payments former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois must make to his estranged wife.

The Chicago Tribune reports a judge in the District of Columbia ordered Jackson on Thursday to provide former Chicago Alderwoman Sandi Jackson with $329 in payments starting Aug. 1 for their two teenage children.

The couple is in the midst of a divorce.

The judge's decision comes after the former congressman challenged a ruling requiring him to make $1,529 monthly payments to Sandi Jackson.

Both Jacksons pleaded guilty in August 2013 to schemes related to the misuse of a congressional campaign fund. Each was sentenced to prison for diverting $750,000 in campaign funds to personal use from 2005 to 2012. They have been released from prison.

AP Mar-11-2017 126 0
On a day that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for the resignations of 46 remaining U.S. Attorneys, Pineville native Stephanie Finley announced her retirement from federal service after 25 years.

Though it is generally standard procedure for new presidential administrations to replace chief federal prosecutors, all of whom are political appointees, the fact that Sessions asked for all the resignations at one time raised some eyebrows Friday. Half of the 93 U.S. Attorneys had already left the Justice Department.

For Finley, her retirement caps an impressive career that saw her become an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1995 and then her most recent position of U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana following her appointment by President Obama in 2010.

Finley also rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, as she served from 1988 until her retirement in November of 2016.

“I have been truly blessed to serve my nation in the capacity of the United States Attorney, Assistant United States Attorney, Special Assistant United States Attorney, and Lt. Colonel in the United States Air Force," Finley said in a news release. "I am extremely proud of the District’s accomplishments over the last six and a half years; there are too many to mention. But, as I have said from day one, no one does this alone. Today, I would like to thank all of the unsung men and women of the Western District of Louisiana who are some of the finest public servants in our state and nation. They are the reasons why my service has been so gratifying and successful


"I want to also thank the men and women who serve in our partner federal agencies and our tribal, state and local partners. The public will never know the magnitude of our ongoing collaboration to keep the citizens of our communities safe and to represent the United States. I also thank my family and friends who have been supportive throughout my career."

Finley was sworn into office on June 2, 2010, and was the first woman in the State of Louisiana appointed to serve as a U.S. Attorney. She was the chief law enforcement officer for 42 of the 64 parishes in the state, charged with the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the Federal Government and the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party.

In her 20 plus years with the Department of Justice, Finley prosecuted cases involving white collar crimes, violent crimes, civil rights, environmental crimes, drug trafficking, public corruption and tax evasion. She previously served as a member of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Advisory Committee from 2011-2013.

"The work of the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office will continue," Finley said. "My service to our nation and state will also continue; it will now be in my private capacity. I am excited about what the future holds, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the United States Attorney.”

Finley is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Grambling State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. She is a Cum Laude graduate of Southern University Law Center where she received her Juris Doctorate in 1991 and was the Editor in Chief of the Law Review.
AP Mar-11-2017 142 0
Ali and his mother, Khalilah Camacho Ali, were stopped at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after returning from Jamaica on Feb. 7. They traveled to Washington on Wednesday without incident to speak to members of a congressional subcommittee on border security about that experience.

But attorney Chris Mancini said that when Ali attempted to board a JetBlue Airways flight home to Florida that day he was detained for 20 minutes. Mancini said Ali spoke to Department of Homeland Security officials by telephone and showed his driver's license and passport before he was allowed to board.

"None of this was happening Wednesday," Mancini said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon as he was traveling with the Alis. "Going to Washington obviously opened up a can of worms at DHS."

Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was on the same flight, tweeted a photo with Ali after he was allowed to board and wrote: "On way home on DOMESTIC FLIGHT Muhammad Ali Jr. detained AGAIN ... Religiously profiling son of 'The Greatest' will not make us safe."

The mother and son, both born in the United States, have said in interviews that they believe they have been stopped because they are Muslim with Arabic names. Earlier this week, they announced a campaign for religious freedom in the spirit of the boxing icon, supported by ex-boxing greats Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran and others. They say they are opposed to President Donald Trump's travel ban, which they feel unfairly targets Muslims.

A spokeswoman for JetBlue referred questions to DHS officials.



Aamer Madhani Mar-11-2017 156 0
A 24-year-old woman is being held on $1 million bond for allegedly killing her boyfriend by forcing him to drink bleach.

Yasmine Elder was charged with first-degree murder in the gruesome death of Darius Ellis, a killing prosecutors say was spurred by a heated argument that turned physical.

The two were sitting in a van shortly after Elder got off work early Monday from her job at an area bakery when the couple got into an argument. As the dispute turned physical, Elder — who authorities say weighed about 77 pounds more than her boyfriend — allegedly climbed on top of Ellis and grabbed him by his dreadlocks to gain control of him. Ellis, 26, was lying between the bucket seats at that time.

“The defendant placed her knee on the victim to hold him down,” Cook County assistant state’s attorney Joseph Carlson said during Elder’s bond hearing Thursday. “There was a bottle of bleach inside the van; the defendant and victim struggled with the bottle. The defendant then poured the bleach on the victim’s face, dousing him, and causing the bleach to go down his throat.”

Elder eventually got off Ellis and left the van. Ellis drove himself to the apartment of a friend, where he told multiple witnesses Elder poured bleach down his throat. Ellis collapsed on the landing of his friend’s apartment building and began to foam at the mouth.

He was rushed to the hospital, but died hours later from his injuries. An autopsy revealed Ellis had a bruise and abrasions to his left cheek and bruises to his head and back as well as chemical burns to his stomach and esophagus. Tests of the contents of the man’s stomach revealed his pH levels — the measure of concentration of hydrogen in the body — were between 12 and 13. Normal pH levels are 5 to 6.

Carlson said after the ambulance left, the witnesses walked to the victim's family home to let them know what happened. One of the witnesses saw Elder walking near the home and confronted her about the injuries sustained by the victim.

The witness told investigators Elder admitted to pouring bleach on her boyfriend. She “then laughed at the witness when she was informed that the victim might die,” Carlson said.

Elder was arrested later Monday. At the time of her arrest, she had an injury to her hand consistent with a bleach burn.
Mar-11-2017 603 0
The voice was calm and quiet and desperate: "I'm in a very bad situation, and I need to get out."

The caller, a 20-year-old woman, told a Georgia dispatcher that she was being held against her will. And it wasn't just her.

"It's a house full of girls and ... if I try to leave, he'll try to kill me and stuff," she said, prompting the dispatcher to ask, "Wait — did you say you're in a house full of girls?"

The caller's Tuesday morning plea helped Georgia authorities to uncover an alleged case of human trafficking based out of a $1 million luxury home in the suburbs of Atlanta. The suspect, Kenndric Roberts, 33, was charged with additional felonies Friday, Sandy Springs police told NBC News.

Roberts faces five counts of false imprisonment, five counts of trafficking persons for labor and two counts for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. An AK-47 pistol and a Glock .45-caliber handgun were found in the home, police said. Possible federal charges are also pending.

In total, eight women ranging from ages 19 to 22 were found at the home, said Sgt. Sam Worsham.

Roberts was renting the residence, Worsham added, and the homeowners weren't there. The president of the local homeowners association told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the group had received complaints from neighbors about cars constantly "coming in and out."

It's unclear how long some of the women were allegedly held at the home, which is listed as having five bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms. The 911 caller said she had been there about a month.

She said she met the man holding her captive via SeekingArrangement.com, a website that offers "mutually beneficial relationships," and that "he had me go get, like, plastic surgery."

Related: Flight Attendants Train to Spot Human Trafficking

Police said Roberts had lured the young women by telling them he could provide them modeling jobs.

But the promises made of easy money turned into threats of violence, detectives said in an affidavit.

One woman "stated that Kendrick [sic] had threatened her on numerous times, one instance where he stated he was going to pay someone to cut her chest open, take out the implants and cut her up," the detective wrote.

Some of the women also said he forced them to work at local strip clubs, and they had to leave their IDs and phones at home, police said. He offered to pay them more money if they stayed with him — and threatened to hurt them or their families if they left.

Roberts waived his first court appearance Thursday. He is being held without bond in Fulton County Jail with another hearing planned for later this month.

The FBI office in Atlanta is helping to assist the investigation, and is asking for other potential victims to come forward.

Worsham said all eight of the women have been brought to families or placed in safe houses.

Atlanta remains one of the largest hubs in the country for sexual exploitation and human trafficking, federal authorities say.

Kasey McClure, who runs the faith-based nonprofit 4Sarah Inc., which assists victims of sex trafficking in the Atlanta area, said this latest case should be an eye-opener because it happened in an affluent bedroom community where neighbors failed to notify police.

For the women, who are oftentimes desperate for money and a place to live, the lifestyle can seem irresistible, she added.

"These girls think, 'Well, I'm in a beautiful home. I'm getting fed. I'm getting transportation. I don't have to worry about paying bills.' It's glamorized," said McClure, who began the nonprofit in 2005 after leaving the sex industry herself.

Her organization, which began as a "strip club ministry," aims to help women turn their lives around. While some young girls and women are put off by the violence and leave on their own accord, others sometimes return because they have nowhere else to go, she said.

But she remains hopeful organizations such as hers can make a difference: "You change lives one girl at a time."
Peter Nickeas Mar-08-2017 99 0
A Chicago man accused of murder who beat his case when prosecutors couldn't give him a speedy trial was killed after leaving Cook County Jail on Monday night, according to authorities. 

Kamari Belmont, 23, was being held on separate murder and robbery cases stemming from a single night in 2015 in which he was accused of shooting one man during a robbery who later died and robbing another man a couple of hours later. 

Cook County prosecutors in January dropped murder charges against Belmont and his co-defendant, Terrance Hogan, 23, after allowing too much time to elapse under the state's speedy trial statute without bringing the case to trial, according to court records and Belmont's attorney. Bail on Belmont's robbery case was set at $100,000 the same day charges were dropped. 

A spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office did not respond to a request for comment.  
At 5:30 p.m. Monday, a friend of Belmont's posted $10,000 bond. Belmont was released at 11:12 p.m. 
Someone pulled alongside him in a white SUV on California Avenue a couple of blocks south of Cook County Jail on Monday night before midnight and started shooting. Belmont was shot multiple times. 
The white SUV crashed, and those inside fled, according to police. Belmont collapsed in the street trying to flee and died at the scene. 
"Oh, my God, I can't believe it," said Belmont's attorney, Michael Johnson, who said he has known Belmont's family for over two decades. He said he'd seen his client recently at the jail as Belmont's family put together the bail money. Hogan remains locked up.
"I told him, once he gets out he's got to get out of the neighborhood," Johnson said. "Unfortunately this isn't the first time I've seen this."
Johnson said he didn't believe Belmont's killing was street justice. The original armed robbery and murder weren't gang-related, Johnson said, and it wasn't possible word spread that quickly of his client's release from jail.  
The man Belmont was accused of killing, Sorrell Marshall, 40, was wounded in a robbery May 1, 2015, and died three weeks later. But after his death, prosecutors chose to indict Hogan and Belmont only on attempted murder and armed robbery charges, according to a motion filed by Hogan's attorneys last fall and later adopted by Belmont.
It wasn't clear why prosecutors waited so long to file murder charges or why the two were still indicted for attempted murder after Marshall died May 23. Marshall's death, however, was not immediately ruled a homicide by the Cook County medical examiner's office, which initially marked the case as pending further investigation.
The two weren't indicted on murder charges until a year later, but the speedy trial clock had already been ticking because the new indictment was based on the same set of facts, the three-page motion said, leaving prosecutors no choice but to drop the charges.
Marshall had dropped off his girlfriend near her apartment at 37th and Vincennes that night and had parked when Belmont and Hogan tried to rob him, according to authorities. 
A struggle ensued, and Marshall was shot in the leg and the groin. He died later in the month. 
Belmont was arrested in Canaryville that night after a second robbery, according to authorities. He and Hogan held up a man in the South Loop. A woman with him fled and flagged down a police car that tracked the phone to Canaryville. 
Hogan was accidentally shot during the arrest, according to the police union at the time, and was arrested after he showed up at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center seeking treatment for his wound. 
Jessica Estepa Mar-06-2017 88 0
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson referred to slaves as "immigrants" while speaking Monday to department employees.

"That's what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity," Carson said. "There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less."
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