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Tavis Smiley Upset with Chicago Public Radio for Dropping Show
Oct-29-2012 1405 0


Tavis Smiley and his beloved brother in the struggle, Cornel West, just got kicked off a Chicago radio station due to declining ratings.

Smiley addressed the split recently in a heated open letter to Torey Malatia, president of Chicago Public Radio affiliate WBEZ.

“One could argue that it is easier for an African American to be president of the United States than it is to host a primetime radio program on Chicago Public Radio,” Smiley declared. He went on explaining how “demeaning, derogatory and dead wrong” Malatia and his folks are about the drop.

Smiley explained Chicago Public Media cut them off, citing declined ratings. According to the group, listeners went from 37,900 to 13,200. Besides that, officials didn’t like that the show was slanted a particular way.

“The show had developed much more of an ‘advocacy’ identity, which is inconsistent with our approach on WBEZ,” a spokesman said.

Others, however, suspect the cancelation had more to do with the pair’s relentless criticism of the president.

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Jul-01-2015 69 0
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was found guilty of attempted extortion and perjury Wednesday, and several deputies immediately escorted him from the courtroom into custody.

A jury was unanimous in convicting Ellis on the four felony charges related to allegations that he strong-armed county contractors into contributing to his 2012 re-election campaign. Ellis was found not guilty on five other charges.

Ellis and his wife didn’t move or show emotion as the jury foreman read the verdicts after deliberating about 27 hours over six days.

Ellis will be sentenced July 8. The maximum sentence for the three perjury counts is 10 years imprisonment, and the attempt to commit theft by extortion count carries a five-year maximum sentence.

The conviction brought an end to Ellis’ political career, where he had reached the pinnacle of leadership in the 700,000-person county in 2008 and then convincingly won a second term four years later.

Ellis, his attorneys and his family didn’t comment. Neither did District Attorney Robert James, who is bound by a gag order until after sentencing.

Walton, who agreed to wear a wire so he would not be charged with lying to a special purpose grand jury when he was asked if he got gifts or services from county vendors.

The extortion count involved accusations that Ellis shook down Power and Energy Services, which serviced generators for the county. Jurors heard a recording in which Ellis solicited contributions from Brandon Cummings, the president of the company.

“If I’ve got to sit down and explain to you why you would want to support this county government … ” Ellis said on the recording. “You obviously have an interest in DeKalb County … I’m not asking you to make a charitable contribution. I’m asking you to make a campaign contribution.”

The three perjury charges dealt with Ellis’ testimony to a special grand jury, when he said under oath that he doesn’t get involved in county contracting.

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JASON SILVERSTEI Jul-01-2015 78 0
Three people in Baltimore, including a teenage boy, have been indicted for murder, rape, arson and gang charges in the brutal death of a high school girl, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Adonay Dixon, 23, and John Childs, 20, were the first two suspects charged for the murder of 16-year-old Arnesha Bowers, the Baltimore Sun reported. They were accused of breaking into Bowers' home, sexually assaulting her, killing her, and stealing $40 in cash, an iPad and a laptop.

Days later, 14-year-old Raeshawn Rivers, who knew Bowers, was arrested and charged as an adult.

After the arrests in early June, Dixon and Childs were slapped with new charges for gang activity. Prosecutors have yet to specify where those charges come from, but detectives have said they believed the two were members of the Bloods and the brutal murder might have been an initiation ritual.

Dixon's mom, Sandra Dixon, has previously refuted any gang connection to her son, despite hesitating to claim he is innocent, WBAL reported.

Bowers, an 11th-grader at Baltimore City College, was found dead June 7 in her grandmother's home, which was set on fire. Police said she was kidnapped and raped, then had her genitals set on fire to hide evidence of the rape before she was strangled.

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BILL HUTCHINSON Jul-01-2015 236 0
Despite being at death’s door, Bobbi Kristina Brown has been hit with a lawsuit by a Georgia man claiming he was severely injured in a car crash she caused.

Russell Eckerman, 41, of Marietta, Ga., claims the Jan. 27 head-on crash left him with medical bills and damages exceeding $730,000.

The accident occurred near Atlanta just three days before Whitney Houston’s only child was found unconscious in a bathtub in her home in Roswell, Ga.

Bobbi Kristina, 21, who has been in a coma ever since, was moved to a hospice facility last week.

The suit, filed Friday in Fulton County, Ga., Supreme Court, charges that Brown was speeding and tailgating a car when she lost control of her 2005 Jeep Liberty, swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with Eckerman’s Ford Taurus.

At the time of the crash, a witness said Eckerman was bleeding from his head and did not have a pulse. Eckerman was revived and taken to North Fulton Hospital, where he spent several days in critical condition.

Witness Osse Lessage told reporters at the time that Bobbi Kristina jumped out of her car and raced to Eckerman to find out his condition.

“She was running and screaming, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Lessage said at the time. “My brother-in-law was there (saying) ‘calm down, calm down.’”

Police investigators determined Bobbi Kristina lost control of the Jeep when she blew a right rear tire. Investigators said they found a nail in the tire.

The suit was brought against Bobbi Kristina through her guardians, who include her father, R&B singer Bobby Brown, her aunt, Pat Houston, and her conservator Bedelia Hargrove.

The suit also named the Ford Motor Company as a defendant, charging the airbag on Eckerman’s car did not deploy properly and its seatbelt was defective.

Meanwhile, Bobbi Kristina’s family continued to hold a bedside vigil for her at the Peachtree Christian Hospice in Duluth, Ga.

When leaving the hospice facility Wednesday after a two-hour visit, Pat Houston told the Daily News that her niece’s condition was the “same.”

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SABRINA CASERTA Jul-01-2015 87 0
Corrupt ex-state Sen. Malcolm Smith was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison for attempting to bribe his way onto New York City's Republican mayoral ballot in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas imposed the sentence in White Plains Federal Court on the once-powerful Queens pol, who was stone-faced throughout the proceeding.

Karas also sentenced former Queens GOP leader Vincent Tabone to 3 1/2 years for his role in the convoluted $200,000 scheme to buy Smith’s way into City Hall.

“Bribes and kickbacks should never play a role in the selection of candidates for public office,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

“By attempting to buy and sell a spot on New York City’s mayoral ballot, Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone corrupted one of the most fundamental tenets of the democratic process, that candidates cannot bribe their way onto a ballot.”

Prosecutors said Smith, the former Democratic majority leader in the state Senate, tried to buy the Republican nomination by having a rich developer — who was actually an undercover FBI agent — pay for the the backing of the Bronx and Queens Republican machines. Smith also agreed to steer $500,000 in state money towards a real estate development in Spring Valley, N.Y., for the undercover agent and a cooperating witness.

Smith, who represented parts of Queens, did not speak in court.

He had sought a sentence of only a year and a day, arguing that he pursued the bribery scheme not for financial gain but out of a desire to help the people of New York City.

“He wasn't buying a seat; he was just looking for the opportunity to run,” his attorney Gerald Shargel said.

But Karas wasn’t buying that argument, though he did note Smith’s “good deeds” factored in the sentence.

“Just because Mr. Smith wasn't lining his pockets, doesn't mean he wasn't engaging in good, old-fashioned bribery,” Karas said. “The person who benefited the most in this scheme is the one who wanted to be the mayor, even if he wanted to be a good mayor.”

Prosecutors said Tabone accepted $20,000 during a boozy dinner at Sparks Steak House in Midtown on Smith’s behalf from the undercover FBI agent. He also attempted to persuade a witness in the case to not testify against him.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions. Politics can be a noble and worthy endeavor, but my conduct was not. It was dead wrong. If you do what I did, you'll be where I am,” Tabone said.

Former City Councilman Dan Halloran, who attempted to negotiate the bribes for Smith’s spot on the ballot, has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Shargel said Smith would appeal the sentence. He must surrender on Sept. 21 and asked to be locked up at Otisville Correctional Facility.

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Jun-30-2015 115 0
One of New York’s own, a teen who attended school on the Upper West Side, was one of the two big winners Monday night at the seventh annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards on Broadway .

Marla Louissaint, 17, who just graduated from the Beacon School, was named best actress after performing a rousing solo of “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple.”

Marla told the Daily News she will study engineering at Fordham University in the fall.

Anthony Skillman, 18, who just graduated from Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif., was named best actor.

The two top awards, nicknamed the Jimmys after theater owner James M. Nederlander, include $10,000 scholarships.

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TOBIAS SALINGER Jun-29-2015 136 0
A kitchen employee at a North Carolina jail is accused of having sex with an inmate who worked with her in the mess hall and helping the convicted murderer escape for a day, police said.

Kendra Lynette Miller, 33, allegedly assisted in the Saturday breakout of Kristopher McNeil, 29, from a minimum-security facility at Brown Creek Correctional Institution, roughly 45 miles east of Charlotte, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

McNeil was found Sunday night, NBC News reported.

Polkton police charged Miller with harboring a fugitive and aiding and abetting a fugitive, along with having sex with an inmate and supplying a cell phone, Anson County Jail records show.

McNeil, a Winston-Salem man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2009, apparently climbed over the prison’s fence on Saturday, prison officials said. Authorities found him around 11 p.m. Sunday after getting spotted near the border of Davidson and Forsyth counties, according to NBC.

McNeil, who was scheduled to be released in less than three years, was initially charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 death of an accused cocaine trafficker, the Winston-Salem Journal reported at the time. He admitted to the second-degree murder rap and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in a plea deal.

The prisoner and Miller apparently worked together in the cafeteria, where she had been an employee since December, state prisons spokeswoman Pamela Walker said. Miller is incarcerated in Anson County Jail on a $500,000 bond, and she hasn’t hired a lawyer, a jail official said.

The search for the missing North Carolina inmate crystallized on Sunday just as authorities located and shot New York fugitive David Sweat in the upstate town of Constable. Sweat, 35, and Richard Matt, 49, allegedly escaped from the nearby Clinton Correctional Facility with the help of two prison workers earlier this month.

Kristopher McNeil, 29, allegedly climbed the fence at his North Carolina minimum-security prison on Saturday with the help of a woman he's believed to have worked with in the prison kitchen.
Law enforcement officers fatally shot Matt on Friday and critically wounded Sweat on Sunday afternoon.

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Cameron Joseph Jun-29-2015 173 0
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take another look at a major affirmative action case that could further constrict public universities' use of race in admissions.

The court announced that it would consider whether the University of Texas' admissions process is constitutional, in a case brought by a white Texan woman who was rejected from the system's flagship school in Austin.

The Supreme Court heard the case in 2012 but sent it back to lower courts unchanged. It has now resurfaced.

The University of Texas at Austin gives automatic admission to any Texan students in the top 10% of their high school classes, and uses race as one factor for all other applicants as a way to increase diversity on campus.

Abigail Fisher, who is white and wasn't a top high school student, sued to strike down what her lawyers called the school's "unjustified use of race."

The Supreme Court has previously limited how much public universities can factor in race in school applications, ruling years ago that they couldn't use hard quotas.

The court will take up the case in its next session.

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Larry Mcshane Jun-28-2015 114 0
Mourners packed the Emanuel AME Church twice Saturday to celebrate the lives of three parishioners killed in the historic house of worship just 10 wrenching days before.

The sad services began with an overflow crowd first turning out for revered parishioner and librarian Cynthia Hurd, 54, followed a few hours later by a single service for Susie Jackson and her nephew Tywanza Sanders.

The trio, along with six other members of a Bible study group, died at the hands of a racist white gunman during Bible study at the church known as “Mother Emanuel.”

Hurd, a local librarian for 31 years, was fondly recalled for her constant kindness and generosity. All 16 of the county’s library branches remained closed Saturday so their staffs could attend her service.

Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, attending funerals for a third straight day, expressed his hope that the mass killing would lead to something positive.

The June 17 attack “shook an America that didn’t want to believe this kind of hate could still exist,” Riley told the full house of mourners.

“And the manner of her tragic death, leading to our country’s revulsion, her death will lead to change — and Cynthia Hurd will be helping millions.”

For Hurd, the jam-packed funeral service was a return to her roots: She and her siblings attended “Mother Emanuel” while growing up in Charleston.

The church was filled to capacity for both funerals, with the services shown via live streaming at the nearby Second Presbyterian Church for the scores who were turned away.

Many of those who turned out to remember Hurd stuck around for the next service, which was delayed for an hour by the volume of people trying to squeeze inside.

Mourners filed past the open caskets holding the oldest and youngest victims of the attack — the 87-year-old Jackson and 26-year-old Sanders.

Tywanza’s mother Felicia survived the carnage by playing dead, but was left to watch as her son and his great aunt were executed.

The church was filled to capacity for both funerals, with the services shown via live streaming at the nearby Second Presbyterian Church for the scores who were turned away.

The large number of attendees “is important to the family,” said relative Sonian Meggett. “We do appreciate it.”

By the afternoon, mourners arrived beneath black skies and rain.

The attendees included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott. Funerals for the three remaining victims were set for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

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Tobias Salinger Jun-28-2015 121 0
A Texas man who suffered a miscarriage of justice just got the power to prevent future ones.

Anthony Graves — who was set free in 2010 after spending 12 years on death row and six more behind bars for the murders of a woman, her daughter and her four grandchildren — is going to help manage a crime lab for Houston-area law enforcement agencies, the Houston Chronicle reported.

City officials appointed Graves, 49, to the board of the Houston Forensic Science Center on Wednesday, according to the newspaper. Graves’ shocking case displayed prosecutorial misconduct by a district attorney who has since been disbarred, and the father of three told NBC News he was ready to take on the new challenge.

“I became a criminal justice expert through my own experiences,” he said. “My university is D.R.U. — that’s 'death row university.' I’m well-qualified.”

Graves told NBC he sweated through two execution dates while in jail for the crime he didn’t commit. The vicious 1992 murder of Bobbie Davis and her family rocked the town of Somerville in Burleson County, about 90 miles north of Houston, according to a documentary on Graves’ saga years later on CBS’ “48 Hours.”

The father of a 4-year-old boy murdered in the incident, Robert Carter, testified in the 1994 trial that Graves had helped him carry out the murders — even though he had already told Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta that he had acted alone, the documentary notes.

“I watched the system just fail me from top to bottom,” Graves told NBC.

Carter repeated that Graves had nothing to do with the murders in a taped statement three years later. Even while strapped to the gurney awaiting his own execution in 2000, Carter said he had lied during the trial in which Graves was convicted, "48 Hours" reported.

A federal court threw out Graves’ conviction in 2006, but he wouldn’t walk out of jail a free man until four years later. That's when a special prosecutor appointed to retry him found that the case didn’t stand up to facts uncovered through several years’ investigative work led by local journalism professor Nicole Casarez and her students. That prosecutor chose to free Graves.

“They were trying to kill me,” he said on "48 Hours."

“I still can't wrap my mind around how the hell did I go from my home to death row for a crime that happened in another town to people I don't even know. It's crazy ... and I gave 18 years of my life."

But Sebesta continued to insist publicly that Graves had been guilty, Texas Monthly reported. That is, until the State Bar of Texas revoked his law license and formally disbarred him earlier this month for, among four other violations, not telling defense lawyers that the main witness in the case had recanted his testimony the day before he appeared in court.

And now Graves will have the opportunity to influence the lab that Houston Mayor Anise Parker and the City Council set up in 2013, according to NBC News. He’ll be serving alongside a familiar face — Casarez.

“Anthony was convicted because the truth was not achieved,” Casarez, an attorney and a professor at Houston’s University of St. Thomas, told NBC. “So he understands the importance of always looking for truth and being mindful of our mission.”

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