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Big ‘Money’ Floyd Mayweather embarking on historical conclusion

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By Kenneth D. Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

  

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors moved on Wednesday September 17 to preemptively block the closure of a private... Read more...

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By JULIE WATSON

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On Sunday, September 21 Bobbi Boss, an international hair company, celebrates women by sponsoring a hair stylist face off called the “Bobbi Boss America’s... Read more...

Beck: ‘Officers who detained actress acted properly’

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Police Chief Charlie Beck said that “on initial review,” he believes the officers who detained actress Daniele... Read more...

June 21, 2012

By PETE YOST | Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Setting up a potential constitutional confrontation, a Republican-controlled House panel voted Wednesday to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress, just hours after President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege — for the first time — to withhold documents demanded by the committee.

The party-line vote was 23-17 following hours of caustic debate. The controversy goes next to the full House, where Republican Speaker John Boehner said there would be a vote next week unless there was some resolution in the meantime.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California said that “more than eight months after a subpoena” for the documents — which concern how the Justice Department learned there were problems with an Arizona probe of gun-running into Mexico — Obama’s “untimely assertion” of executive privilege was no reason to delay the contempt vote.

No, it was just political, said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s ranking Democrat. He called the vote “an extreme, virtually unprecedented action based on election-year politics rather than fact.”

The last Cabinet member to be cited by a congressional committee for contempt was Attorney General Janet Reno in President Bill Clinton’s administration. That was never brought to a follow-up vote in the full House.

Technically, if the full House approves the Holder contempt citation, there could be a federal criminal case against him, but history strongly suggests the matter won’t get that far.

Whether Congress could force the Justice Department to turn over the documents is a basic question. In the Watergate case, the Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over taped conversations to a criminal prosecutor. But in the Nixon case, the justices also found a constitutional basis for claims of executive privilege, leaving the door open for presidents to cite it in future clashes with Congress.

In the administration’s claim of executive privilege, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a letter to Issa, “We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the committee's legitimate oversight interests.”

As the day went on, comments rapidly grew more heated. A Boehner spokesman suggested administration officials had lied earlier or were now “bending the law.” Cummings said Issa “had no interest” in resolving the issue and was trying to pick a fight.

The White House reacted sharply to the committee action. “Instead of creating jobs or strengthening the middle class, congressional Republicans are spending their time on a politically motivated, taxpayer-funded election-year fishing expedition,” Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.

Boehner raised another question after the president invoked the privilege.

His press secretary, Brendan Buck, said: “The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed. The administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”

Democrat Cummings said Issa could have settled the matter with Holder reasonably but has instead resorted to “partisan and inflammatory personal attacks.”

Holder and Issa failed to reach agreement Tuesday in a 20-minute meeting at the Capitol.

During the committee’s year-and-a-half-long investigation, the department has turned over 7,600 documents about the conduct of the Fast and Furious operation. However, because Justice initially told the committee falsely the operation did not use a risky investigative technique known as gun-walking, the panel has turned its attention from the details of the operation and is now seeking documents that would show how the department headquarters responded to the committee's investigation.

In Fast and Furious, agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona abandoned the agency’s usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers, who had long eluded prosecution, and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking has long been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level “straw purchaser” was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others.

The agents in Arizona lost track of several hundred weapons in Operation Fast and Furious. Two of the guns that “walked” in the operation were found at the scene of the slaying of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.

Historically, at some point Congress and the president negotiate agreements to settle these disputes, because both sides want to avoid a court battle that could narrow either the reach of executive privilege or Congress’ subpoena power.

Ordinarily, deliberative documents like those Issa is seeking are off-limits to Congress. In Operation Fast and Furious, the Justice Department’s initial incorrect denials are seen as providing justification for the additional demands.

Issa and the House Republican leadership have asked whether the department's initial denial in a Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was part of a broader effort to obstruct a congressional investigation.

The material “pretty clearly demonstrates that there was no intention to mislead, to deceive,” Holder told reporters.

On Wednesday, the slain border agent's parents, Josephine and Kent Terry, said the president’s assertion of executive privilege and Holder’s refusal to fully disclose documents associated with Operation Fast and Furious “compound this tragedy.”

“We are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious,” Terry’s parents said in a statement.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 14, 2012

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (AP) — A former police detective who blamed the antidepressant Zoloft for his behavior was found guilty Wednesday of kidnapping and raping a waitress at gunpoint in a brutal attack.

A San Bernardino County jury will now have to determine whether Anthony Nicholas Orban was sane at the time of the attack.

Orban’s attorney argued during trial that his client suffered a psychotic break because he was taking Zoloft and was effectively unconscious when he kidnapped the woman in the Ontario Mills mall parking lot in San Bernardino County.

Prosecutors say the off-duty officer used his service weapon to force the woman to drive to a self-storage lot, where he sexually assaulted her and shoved a gun in her mouth on April 3, 2010. The woman escaped when Orban was distracted by an incoming cellphone call, prosecutors said.

Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus declined to comment on the verdict, noting the sanity phase of the trial begins Tuesday.

Orban, a 32-year-old who served in the Marines in Iraq, had pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to eight counts, including kidnap and rape. Defense attorney James Blatt said the crux of the case is not the elements of the crime but whether his client was aware of what he was doing.

Blatt said his client had been taking Zoloft for six months, but had gone off the medication and recently restarted it. Orban does not recall the incident, Blatt said.

“This is something that appears to be totally out of character for him,” Blatt said.

If Orban is found to have been sane, he could face a life sentence, Blatt said. If he is found to have been insane, he would be sent to a mental institution for treatment.

The woman, who was 25 at the time of the attack, testified that Orban sexually assaulted her, punched her, choked her, stuck a gun in her mouth and took cellphone photos of her. She told jurors that the attacker did not appear disoriented or unconscious, the San Bernardino Sun reported.

But she also testified that at the end of the attack, he looked at her and asked: “Who are you? How did I get here? Whose car is this?”

A friend of Orban’s, Jeff Jelinek, testified against him. Prosecutors said the former prison guard and Orban had been drinking at the mall and Jelinek was standing next to Orban during the kidnapping and picked him up after the attack.

In a plea deal with prosecutors, Jelinek pleaded no contest last year to being an accessory, false imprisonment and assault.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 14, 2012

By DON THOMPSON | Associated Press

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Everything is bigger in Texas, the saying goes, and that is now also true of its prison system.

California used to have the nation’s largest state prison system, topping 173,000 inmates at its peak in 2006. But since a law took effect last year that shifts responsibility for less serious criminals to county jails, the state has reduced its prison population and is no longer the largest in the nation.

California now has fewer than 136,000 state inmates, eclipsed by about 154,000 in Texas. Florida previously was third, according to 2010 figures from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, and currently has about 100,000 inmates.

The reduction in California was ordered by federal judges in a decision backed last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The courts ruled crowded prisons were causing poor care of sick and mentally ill inmates.

The news comes as the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Wednesday announced a new round of layoffs because fewer guards and other employees are needed as the inmate population shrinks.

“I believe we’re No. 2,” said Jeffrey Callison, the department’s press secretary.

The population dropped by nearly 25,000 inmates from about 160,000 inmates when the law took effect last fall. The courts ordered the state to reduce the population by about 33,000 inmates in the state's 33 adult prisons by June 2013, though corrections officials now argue they can provide acceptable inmate care without meeting that deadline.

The 33,000 inmate reduction is larger than the entire 2010 prison population in 37 other states.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

June 07, 2012

By SARAH BRUMFIELD | Associated Press

 

BALTIMORE (AP) — A victim left partially blinded by a baseball bat attack at a Maryland university now believes a cannibalism suspect in another case may have been planning to eat his organs, too, his attorney said Tuesday.

When 22-year-old Joshua Ceasar regained consciousness after the attack last month at a Morgan State University dormitory apartment, he saw Alex Kinyua standing over him with a knife, said attorney Steve Silverman. Days later, Kinyua told investigators that he had eaten the heart and brain of a family friend he is charged with killing at his family’s home in Joppatowne, according to charging documents.

“In hindsight, knowing what transpired only days later, Josh is convinced that Alex was going to cut open his body and likely consume his organs,” Silverman said. What may have prevented it was two other apartment residents followed a blood trail from the front door and stopped Kinyua before he could use the knife and he fled into nearby woods.

Campus police charged Kinyua with assault and reckless endangerment in the bat attack. Prosecutors asked a court commissioner to refuse bail, but he was freed on $220,000 bail, according to the State’s Attorney’s office. Ceasar said Kinyua randomly attacked him, according to a probable cause statement obtained from Baltimore police. Witnesses told police that Kinyua attacked Ceasar with a bat, but the statement does not mention witnesses interrupting a knife attack in a back room.

Kinyua’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Kinyua was waiting with a bat wrapped in barbed wire and chains when an unsuspecting Ceasar walked through the front door of the apartment Kinyua had been sharing with Ceasar’s friends on May 19, Silverman said. Ceasar was visiting campus for another friend’s graduation. He lost consciousness when Kinyua cracked him on the head, fracturing his skull and shattering his left eye socket. Ceasar is blind in that eye and doctors aren’t optimistic that he will regain his sight, Silverman said.

Kinyua, 21, a U.S. citizen originally from Kenya and a Morgan student, admitted using a knife to kill and carve up 37-year-old Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie before eating his organs, the Harford County Sheriff's Office said when they arrested him May 30. The older man, a native of Ghana, had been staying with the Kinyua family for about six weeks at their townhouse in the Baltimore suburb of Joppatowne and disappeared May 25. His body was found four days later; investigators haven’t given a possible motive.

Silverman said he is investigating if there were earlier signs that Kinyua was a danger.

“We are in the process of ... determining whether or not university officials should have or could have done anything in light of what was known to them to protect students, family and friends on campus for graduation,” he said. “It appears preliminarily there were a number of indicators.”

A December campus police report obtained by The Baltimore Sun states that Kinyua was kicked out of an ROTC program after he punched holes in the walls of the cadet computer lab and a military instructor referred to him as a “Virginia Tech waiting to happen.” The report said Kinyua was barred from campus until a meeting with school officials and that two officers didn’t think a psychological ­evaluation was needed.

The university is reviewing whether officials could have responded in a different way, said Morgan spokesman Clinton Coleman.

“At this point we believe the university did everything it should have,” he said. “You always have to bear in mind that you are dealing with student issues and young people and you have to deal with each person individually.”

Agyei-Kodie’s sister, Irene Konadu Asante, said the family would discuss the possibility of taking legal action on Thursday, following tradition in Ghana of waiting a week after a death before holding a family meeting.

She said the funeral would be held in Ghana, “whatever it takes,” but arrangements had not yet been made. When asked how her family is reacting to the horrific way in which her brother was killed, she said it is not easy.

“It’s not only my family — the way it hit the whole world,” Asante said. “It’s more than you can imagine.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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