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Gym mat death: New evidence points to foul play, expert says
Oct-09-2013 457 0


For the local sheriff's department, the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson is a closed book: A tragedy, but an accident.

State medical examiners concluded that Johnson suffocated in January after getting stuck in a rolled-up gym mat while reaching for a sneaker. That's a finding his family has never accepted, and one challenged by the findings of a second autopsy they commissioned.

Now, death scene imagery obtained by CNN has led a former FBI agent to question how the three-sport athlete died.

"I don't believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play," said Harold Copus, now an Atlanta private investigator.

And Johnson's father, Kenneth Johnson, said he believes authorities aren't leveling with his family.

What happened to Kendrick Johnson?
"They know something happened in that gym, and they don't want it to come out," he said.

'Accidental' death challenged by new autopsy

A 15-minute video and nearly 700 photos taken by sheriff's investigators in Lowndes County documented the horrific scene. Johnson's body, clad in jeans and and layered orange and white T-shirts, was found wedged into a rolled-up wrestling mat in January. His face was bloated with pooled blood, some of which had poured out of his body, soaking his dreadlocks and spilling onto the floor.

There were more streaks of blood on a nearby wall -- but it wasn't Johnson's, according to investigators. Meanwhile, Copus said there appeared to be no blood on a sneaker that the teen supposedly was attempting to reach, located inches beneath him.

A pair of orange-and-black gym shoes found a few yards from the body had a substance that looked like blood on them, but investigators told CNN the stains weren't blood -- and so the shoes weren't collected as potential evidence. The same went for a hooded sweatshirt found a few feet away from the teen.

Copus said he can't explain how investigators handled items found around the gym.

"If you're running a crime scene, then you're going to say 'That's potential evidence. Obviously, we're going to check this out and find out who does it belong to,' " he said.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine refused to discuss the case with CNN, saying, "Our case is closed." But in June, an independent pathologist who conducted a second autopsy for the Johnson family found the teen suffered a blow to the right side of his neck that was "consistent with inflicted injury."

In May, sheriff's Lt. Stryde Jones told CNN that investigators tested the bloodstains on the nearby wall, "and it was not the blood of Kendrick Johnson." Investigators haven't determined whose blood it was, "but it doesn't appear to be involved in our crime in any way," he said.

"In the opinion of our crime scene personnel, after looking at it closely, the blood appeared as if it'd been there for an extended period of time. It didn't appear to be very fresh," Jones said.

But Copus said it's difficult to believe that old bloodstains weren't cleaned up.

"There is no way that they would allow whoever was supposed to clean this gym to leave that blood on that wall," he said.

In September, the Justice Department said it wouldn't open a civil rights investigation into Johnson's death. But federal prosecutors in south Georgia are reviewing the imagery to determine whether a separate investigation is necessary, the U.S. attorney's office in Macon told CNN.

For Johnson's father, the evidence is clear.

"Someone murdered him," he said. "They should be in jail."

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Reuter Jul-25-2014 48 0
The widow and other relatives of Eric Garner, who died last week soon after a New York police officer put him in a choke hold, met with federal prosecutors on Friday to ask for a civil-rights investigation.


Thousands of people have watched two bystanders' videos that record Garner's dying cries that he could not breathe as police wrestled him to the ground while arresting him outside a Staten Island beauty parlor last Thursday for peddling untaxed cigarettes.

Nearly seven months after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office promising to reform the police, many New Yorkers have been alarmed to discover that some officers still use choke holds, although they have been banned from doing so for more than 20 years.

The city has promised to investigate a backlog of choke hold complaints and the police have promised to overhaul their training program in response, but Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist who joined Garner's family at the meeting with prosecutors, said this was not enough.

"We cannot just depend - and this is important - on police policy to stop the choke hold," Sharpton told reporters outside the U.S. Attorney's Office when he emerged with Eric Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, after about 30 minutes. "We need a federal precedent."

Standing nearby was Erica, the eldest of the Garners' six children, and Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother, along with their lawyers. The family declined to speak.

Garner's death is already being investigated by at least four authorities: the Staten Island district attorney, the police department's internal affairs bureau, the city's inspector general of police and the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Bob Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said his colleagues were closely watching the other investigations.

Police said this week they were also investigating a second apparent use of a choke hold by an officer within the span of a week.

A crop of bystanders' videos, recorded just three days before Garner's death and circulated widely this week, showed an officer punching a suspected fare-dodger at a subway station and gripping him around his neck.

Ronald Johns, the suspected fare-dodger, is black, as was Garner, and the two incidents have tested de Blasio's pledge to mend frayed relations between the police and black and Latino residents. Police said Johns refused to show his identification and resisted arrest.

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Jul-25-2014 169 0
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was arrested Friday morning by the FBI.

A sealed indictment filed Wednesday lists the following charges against Price:


Conspiracy to Commit Bribery Concerning a Local Government Receiving Federal Benefits

Deprivation of Honest Services by Mail Fraud and Aiding and Abetting

Conspiracy to Defraud the Internal Revenue Service

Subscribing to a False and Fraudulent U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

Our sources confirmed Price's arrest, but other reports also said Dapheny Fain, Price’s longtime executive assistant, and political consultant Kathy Nealy also were arrested. Nancy Kennedy, Fain's attorney, told The Dallas Morning News that Fain has been charged but does not know yet what the charges are and has not been arrested.

"We're going to turn Dapheny in," Kennedy said.

Attorney Billy Ravkind, who said he learned of the arrest from media reports, said a pretrial bond hearing is scheduled for this afternoon.

"Next time we want to know something, we'll call the press," he said. "I guess I haven't been around long enough. I've never had this happen before. You win or lose cases in the courtroom. What the government does is irrelevant."

Ravkind said he has spoken to the prosecutor but not Price, who he said may be released pending an afternoon bond hearing.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has scheduled a press conference at 11 a.m. at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas. The indictment will be revealed at that time, and federal officials will issue a statement at that time.

Price was arrested about 8 a.m.

We will update this story as more details become available.

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Carol Kuruvilla Jul-24-2014 156 0
The trigger-happy Chicago teen whose gunfight reportedly ended an 11-year-old girl’s life is now in police custody.

Chicago cops have charged 18-year-old Tevin Lee for the death of Shamiya Adams, who was killed after a stray bullet crashed through a bedroom window during a sleepover.

Adams was sitting by an imaginary campfire with six other friends inside her friend’s West Garfield Park home July 18 when a bullet struck her in the head.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy claims Lee was seeking revenge for a fight that happened earlier in the day, between two 14-year-old boys on bikes. One of the boys was beaten up by a group of other young teens. That boy told his older brother about the fight and eventually Lee heard about it as well.

Lee allegedly started tracking down a rival gang member who he believed was involved. He spotted the man standing near the home where Adams was playing with her friends. Cops say Lee took aim and fired four to five shots.

He missed his mark, sending one bullet through a two-inch window opening and killing Adams.

The bullet entered a bedroom window and struck Shamiya Adams in the head.

The shooting took place in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood.

"We have two 14-year-olds fighting and someone introduces a gun into a fistfight and we have now have another child murder," McCarthy told ABC 7 Chicago.

Using information gleaned from neighbors and nine witnesses, cops tracked down Lee by Tuesday. On Thursday, he was formally charged with one count of murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm.

"These guys are out here and they're shooting, and they can't guide the bullet, they can't recall it. And they're always hitting someone innocent. Pure innocence is what's leaving our world, and that's what Shamiya was," Marian Stevenson, the little girl’s aunt, told ABC.

Friends are throwing a fund-raiser Thursday to help the Adams family cover their little girl’s funeral costs. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the event and met with Adams’ family.

Meanwhile, cops are continuing the investigation, searching for more culprits. They have yet to find the gun used in the shooting.

Lee’s mother said she couldn’t believe that her son could have caused such a tragic death.

“I know my baby didn’t do that,” Lagenna Boyd said. “He’s a good child. Not my baby. He don’t do stuff like that.”

But the Chicago police say they’re confident Lee is the killer.

“We know the root causes of crime,” McCarthy told the Chicago Tribune. “We know about poverty, education, breakup of the family unit. But at the end of the day, you introduce a gun into a fistfight, this is what happens."

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Jul-24-2014 193 0
A black teen has become a web star after he filmed shop workers following him around convenience stores because they thought he was stealing.

Rashid Polo has racked up hundreds of thousands of hits after uploading two clips to Vine last week.

In each, he claims to catch staffers keeping a close eye on his movements - checking the shelves that he's just looked at.

But they soon scuttle away after he calls them out by pointing his cellphone at them and saying: "She thinks I'm stealing."

Polo said he decided to record his experience of going shopping after he realized he was repeatedly being trailed by workers.

"It happened again ... this time I'm not even mad ... I'm used to it now," he said in the caption of his second video.

It's unclear where in the U.S. the clips were filmed.

But, following his sudden rise to online fame, the teen said he was glad he could expose what's widely regarded as a recurring issue.

"Discrimination is never cool. I'm glad I could shed some light on such a sensitive topic in a positive way," he tweeted.

He then added: "People keep asking me if I'm going to make more of those videos. As long as I keep getting followed then I will keep making them. (Hope not)."

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Barry Paddock Jul-24-2014 174 0
A 42-year-old Brooklyn woman accused of killing and dismembering a mom of four who was a tenant in her uncle’s building — and scattering her remains across Long Island — was ordered held without bail Thursday morning, authorities said.

“Yes!” family members of Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne whispered to themselves in court as a judge ordered Leah Cuevas back to a holding cell following the brief court appearance in Islip.

Browne’s aunt, who flew to the U.S. with the victim’s distraught husband, Dale Browne, held up her arms in a victory gesture.

“(Cuevas) is charged with the worst conduct that humans can be capable of,” Judge G. Ann Spelman said as she ordered the alleged killer held without bail. “The District Attorney’s evidence is more than compelling. It’s very strong.”

Prosecutors say Cuevas stabbed Chinelle Browne in the neck and torso repeatedly during a heated argument inside her Sumpter St. apartment in Brownsville on July 5.

“No Leah! What she doing?” Browne was allegedly heard screaming during the fatal blow up. “Oh no! Oh no! I’m sorry!”

“That was the last time the victim was heard alive,” Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said Wednesday.

Cuevas killed Browne because the young mom refused to pay her $200, neighbors told the Daily News.

Cuevas allegedly said Browne owed her the money for electricity, but the Guyanese native refused to pay, claiming she wasn’t getting enough power and needed the money to move out, according to Donald Watson, 49.

“She was tired of paying for lighting and having it go out, or the refrigerator going out and spoiling the food," Watson said. "(Browne) said she wanted to take her money and move out but the landlord said ‘no.’ She wanted the $200 ... but (Browne) said I need the $200 to move out.”

Cuevas is the niece of the building’s owner, who died last year, neighbors said. Browne lived with a family on the floor above Cuevas.

Since Cuevas’ uncle died, it’s been unclear who owns the building, neighbors said.

“(Cuevas) is a lady claiming to be a landlord,” said neighbor Lerron Straker.

The fights between Cuevas and Browne were loud — and often public, Watson explained.

“(Cuevas) was an evil lady ... she would come out screaming, 'This is my building!'" he said. "You'd hear them arguing. You'd see the police out here. They'd tell them to go to small claims court. It's been going on for a long time," Watson said.

Browne, who emigrated to the U.S. a year ago, was reported missing July 5 after her fight with Cuevas. The two also allegedly argued on Independence Day.

On July 8, Browne's remains were found in Long Island.

Her legs and torso, which bore a tattoo that helped police identify her, was found in a municipal parking lot in Bay Shore less than a mile from Cuevas’ sister’s home, prosecutors said.

The next day, an arm was discovered on the front lawn of a home in Hempstead. A second arm was found within the week.

Browne's severed head was discovered on Boylston St. near Chamberlain St. in Hempstead on July 17, officials said.

Suffolk County Homicide detectives nabbed Cuevas with the help of the U.S. Marshals' New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Police said the investigation was still active, meaning an accomplice who helped her dispose of the body may still be at large.

Dale Browne said his wife moved to the U.S. first to secure a job and find an apartment. He was going to move to the city with their kids after he got his paperwork in order, he said.

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Jul-23-2014 259 0
The South Carolina single mom arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter play in a park while she worked at McDonald's has been given her daughter back—but has lost her job. The lawyer representing Debra Harrell pro bono says McDonald's has let her go, but he isn't sure why, reports ThinkProgress. A McDonald's spokeswoman declined to comment. Harrell has been charged with unlawful neglect of a child, and her lawyer says that although she has been reunited with her daughter, the Department of Social Services probe is ongoing.

According to the blog Reason, Harrell had been bringing her daughter to work and letting her play on a laptop, but she started dropping her off at a nearby park while she worked after their home was broken into and the laptop was stolen. The lawyer tells CNN he thinks it's "absurd" to say the girl was "abandoned" at the park a few minutes' walk from her house. "Because if this woman gets convicted, guess what? ... From now on, do officers now have an obligation every time they see a 9-and-a-half-year-old not in the presence of their parents, do the parents get arrested?" he says. "It truly is the classic slippery slope." Amid public outcry over the case, a fundraising page set up to help Harrell has received more than $31,000 in donations.

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Jul-23-2014 374 0
An Atlanta man was bilked out of $175,000 when he fell victim to an organized ring that uses identity theft to raid investment and bank accounts, according to Atlanta police.

Atlanta Police Detective Ken Stapler said six-figure identity thefts are increasingly common in the metro Atlanta region as professional criminals target people’s life savings and investment accounts.

“Anybody who is smart enough to do this is smart enough to go after large amounts of money,” said the veteran detective.

Police have identified someone they believe opened up a phony business account at a JP Morgan Chase bank branch in Atlanta, which received $123,000 from Terance Fowler’s Charles Schwab account.

Police say the woman used her own name — Tanya Monique Peel — to set up a business account. Police then linked the name to a woman who lived in Raleigh, N.C., and confirmed it was her from a sultry “selfie” photograph on her Facebook page, Stapler said. Bank surveillance cameras matched the woman who withdrew the $123,000 to the picture on the Facebook page and her driver’s license.

Leaving such clues for detectives to follow was enough to tell Stapler that the 26-year-old woman was not a lone wolf, noting the fraud was clever but its success laid in its simplicity.

“I think she is with a group of professionals,” said Stapler, who is searching for Peel after securing an arrest warrant for her last week. “There is no way she did this by herself.”

Fowler, 45, declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement with the banks and the investment corporation. He reported the case to police.

Fowler lost his money when the group got his identifying information and his cellphone number, correctly guessing the cellphone was how Charles Schwab traders verified whether cash transfer orders were legitimate, Stapler said. The investment company refunded Fowler his loss, Stapler said.

The criminals had all of Fowler’s incoming calls forwarded to an untraceable cellphone and then ordered Charles Schwab to transfer $123,000 to the account controlled by someone police say was Peel and another $52,000 to a Wells Fargo branch in California on Dec. 19, Stapler said. The money that was transferred to the Wells Fargo account was frozen before it could be removed from the account, Stapler said.

When Charles Schwab representatives called Fowler to verify the transfers were legitimate, the call was forwarded to the crooks who impersonated Fowler and authorized the transfers, Stapler said.

Then, police say, Peel withdrew most of the $123,000 in a combination of cash and money orders, with 10 of the money orders made payable to Acquisitions & Consulting Group LLC, another phony business involved in fraudulent account take overs, Stapler said. A Peel confederate made two of the withdrawals, police say.

Jim Wanserski , a fraud expert, said identity thefts like the one plaguing Fowler would continue to rise until corporations adopt the technology improvements to make them more difficult.

“That is not a very sophisticated scheme but it worked,” said Wanserski of Wanserski & Associates. “That is a good example as how easy it can be.”

Crimestoppers of Atlanta is offering a $2,000 reward for information that leads to arrest and indictment of Peel, who Stapler has been unable to locate. Callers can leave confidential tips at 404-577-TIPS (8477), online www.crimestoppersatlanta.org or by texting CRIMES (274637).

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alan duke Jul-23-2014 310 0
Ray J Norwood has been charged with four misdemeanors in a case in which he's accused of grabbing a woman's buttocks, smashing a police car window and spitting on a cop.

The Los Angeles County district attorney on Monday filed the charges against the singer stemming from an incident at a Beverly Hills hotel on May 30, a court filing said.

Norwood, 33, is infamous as Kim Kardashian's partner in the sex tape that launched her reality show career.

A police spokesman said Norwood's initial hearing is set for Friday, although he does not have to attend since the charges are misdemeanors. The criminal complaint lists four counts: sexual battery, vandalism, resisting arrest and battery.

Beverly Hills police arrested him at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on May 30 after a woman complained that he "grabbed her buttocks," a police statement said.

Although the initial police report said it was decided that the "contact was incidental," the complaint alleged that it was sexual battery because Ray J did "unlawfully touch an intimate part" of the woman for the "specific purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification and sexual abuse."

The vandalism, battery and resisting arrest charges filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney stem from what happened after police arrived at the hotel.

Norwood "became belligerent with the valets and refused to leave," despite repeated requests by hotel security, the police statement said.

"After the uniform police officers took Mr. Norwood into custody and placed him in the rear of a police vehicle, he became belligerent and used his feet to shatter the side window of the police vehicle," the police statement said. "Mr. Norwood was subsequently removed from the police vehicle in order to restrain his feet; at which time he became combative and spat into the face of one of the officers."

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Kerry Burke Jul-22-2014 283 0
A highly touted Brooklyn principal was yanked from her post Monday, three days after state police caught her trying to smuggle heroin into a maximum-security prison upstate with a 10-year-old in tow, city education officials said.

Public School 28 Principal Sadie Silver, 40, of Bushwick, was arrested Friday with Michael Acosta, 34, after cops caught the educator and her partner carrying heroin and prescription drugs into Coxsackie Correctional Facility.

Silver and Acosta face felony charges of promoting prison contraband and criminal possession of a controlled substance, as well as a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, since they had a 10-year-old with them when they were collared.

State Police Maj. Patrick Regan said Silver and Acosta had arrived for a previously arranged visit with an inmate at the 1,000-inmate prison for men in Greene County, where they intended to pass off the drugs.

“Silver and Acosta were found to possess a quantity of heroin and suboxone, which they were attempting to deliver to the inmate,” Regan said in a statement. “Silver and Acosta brought a 10-year-old child with them while they attempted to deliver the narcotics.”

The two would-be smugglers were both released on bond. They each face possible prison time if convicted of their alleged crimes.

City education officials removed Silver from her job after hearing of her arrest and reassigned her to an administrative center away from students.

“We’ve reassigned her away from her school pending the outcome of her case,” said Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg. Silver will continue to draw her salary of $129,920.

Before her arrest, Silver was known as an up-and-coming school leader who overcame her own troubled childhood to serve the children in the community where she grew up.

In a 2012 Daily News profile, Silver explained that she was a teen mother who dropped out of high school, but rose above those challenges to earn two master’s degrees. She has worked in city schools since 1996.

“It was the teachers that believed in me, that got me to where I am today,” Silver said in the article, which praised gains in reading scores at the school under her leadership.

But that year, Silver was slapped with a $1,500 fine by the city Conflict of Interest Board for using her position to land her brother a data-entry job at her school.

Reached at home in Bushwick Monday, Silver’s mother, Denise Ortiz, 57, was still reeling in shock over her daughter’s arrest.

“I don’t know what happened,” said Ortiz, who wouldn’t reveal the nature of Silver’s relationship with Acosta, or identify the child who was traveling with them when they were pinched. “She went to college and I taught her to do the right thing. Her record speaks for itself.”

A relative who answered the door at Acosta’s home said Acosta is Silver’s boyfriend and the child they brought with them to the jail is Silver’s daughter.

“He’s been trying to stay away from trouble,” the relative said of Acosta.


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