December 20, 2012

By DON BABWIN and MICHAEL TARM  Associated Press

 

Two convicted bank robbers who pulled off a daring overnight escape from a high-rise Chicago jail had changed from their prison garb by the time they hopped into a cab near the lock-up, investigators said Wednesday as they expanded their manhunt for the men.

Authorities were raiding houses and combing through records looking for anybody with ties to the inmates who climbed out a jail window and descended 20 stories using a makeshift rope.

The FBI said surveillance footage from a camera near the Metropolitan Correctional Center shows Kenneth Conley and Joseph Banks getting into a cab at about 2:45 a.m. Tuesday — about two hours before guards were supposed to do a bed check and four hours before workers spotted the rope dangling from the federal jail. The pair had changed from their orange jail-issued jumpsuits into light-colored pants and shirts, the FBI said.

"We don't know if they fashioned their own clothes, or what," said Special Agent Frank Bochte.

The FBI was offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of Conley and Banks, with the manhunt focused mainly on Chicago and its suburbs.

Law enforcement officials said at least three homes in the suburbs south of Chicago where one of the inmates once lived were searched Tuesday, and a suburban strip club where Conley once worked confirmed that investigators had visited.

Investigators believe the men had been at a home in Tinley Park, 25 miles southwest of Chicago, just hours before police SWAT teams stormed it. A law enforcement official said the home was that of Conley's mother and that after the woman refused to let the escapees in, the men used a rock to break a window.

The person, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation so would speak only on condition of anonymity, said authorities also searched the home of a former girlfriend of Conley in nearby New Lenox, where the escapees had eaten breakfast.

In Orland Park, which borders Tinley Park, police Chief Timothy McCarthy said records revealed Conley had been arrested several years ago on a robbery charge.

"We looked at our own files and came up with a former colleague, a past associate," he said.

Orland Park officers helped search a house where the associate lives or once lived, he said, but there was no evidence the escaped inmates had been there.

But the chain of events illustrates just the kind of thing investigators are doing: looking through records, arrest reports and even traffic tickets in the hopes of finding where the men went.

Authorities have not said exactly how many people are involved with the search. But the entire 35-member staff of the U.S. Marshals Service's Chicago office was involved, a show of force that spokeswoman Belkis Cantor said "was rare."

Many questions remained about how the two managed to pull off such an escape from the federal prison in the heart of downtown Chicago. At the top of the list is how they could have smashed a gaping hole into the wall at the bottom of a 6-inch wide window without being heard or seen by correctional officers.

Another question is why, in the federal facility that houses some 700 inmates, the correctional officers didn't notice the men were missing between a 10 p.m. headcount and one at 5 a.m.

A guidebook for jail inmates indicates there would have been headcounts at midnight and 3 a.m. But inmates aren't required to stand for those headcounts, only for ones at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. It's unclear if guards may have been fooled by items the FBI said the men stuffed under their beds to make it appear they were there.

It's also unclear what happened between when authorities have said guards first realized the men were missing and when the rope was spotted at 7 a.m.

Authorities also have not said how the two men managed to collect 200 feet of bed sheet or how they broke through the wall.

The escape bore a striking resemblance to one at the same jail in 1985. In that case, convicted murderer Bernard Welch and an accomplice, Hugh Colomb, smashed through a window with a bar from a weight set and used bed sheets and an electrical cord attached to a floor buffer to descend six stories to the ground.

William Rollins, a Washington, D.C., police detective at the time who was brought in by the U.S. Marshals Service to investigate, said the noise of breaking the wall would have been deafening. But he thinks other inmates would have gladly made a lot of noise to drown out the sound.

"They will lure a guard into the laundry room and have all the dryers going," said Rollins, now retired, whose investigation is included in a book about Welch by Jack Burch and James B. King called "Ghost Burglar."

Not only that, but he said his investigation revealed that inmates had hidden hacksaw blades in ceiling tiles and drill bits in bed frames.

"And they used a vacuum cleaner motor to power the drill bit," he said. "These guys are really creative."

Rollins said it's likely Conley and Banks are still in the area. The vast majority of escapees don't stray too far, he said.

"They stay where they feel comfortable in that environment," he said.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

December 20, 2012

By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press

 

Reported sexual assaults at the nation’s three military academies jumped by 23 percent overall this year, but the data signaled a continued reluctance by victims to seek criminal investigations.

According to a report obtained by The Associated Press, the number of assaults rose from 65 in the 2011 academic year to 80 in 2012. However, nearly half the assaults involved victims who sought confidential medical or other care and did not trigger an investigation. There were 41 assaults reported in 2010.

Reported sexual assaults have climbed steadily since the 2009 academic year. The Defense Department has urged the academies to take steps to encourage cadets and midshipmen at the Army, Navy and Air Force academies to report sexual harassment and assaults in order to get care to everyone and hold aggressors accountable. The number of assaults reported by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., increased, while reports at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., declined.

In addition to the sexual assault report, the military also is releasing the results of its biannual anonymous survey of academy students, which showed that 12 percent of the women said they experienced “unwanted sexual contact” and 51 percent said they were sexually harassed. Of the men, 2 percent experienced unwanted contact and 10 percent said they were sexually harassed.

Officials are concerned whenever the number of reported sexual assaults goes down while the anonymous survey suggests that unwanted sexual contact goes up or stays the same. That's because military officials want victims to feel comfortable going to their superiors to report incidents.

The report divides the assaults into two categories, restricted and unrestricted. Unrestricted reports rose slightly from 38 last year to 42 this year, and those are provided to either law enforcement or military commanders for an investigation. Restrict­ed reports jumped from 27 last year to 38 this year, and in those cases victims sought medical care and advocacy services but did not seek an official investigation.

According to the report, all three academies are now meeting department policies and requirements for training and the appointment of sexual assault response coordinators.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

 December 20, 2012

By Shannen Hill

LAWT Intern

 

Police have found security video footage of the alleged gunman who killed Brandon Woodard, the Los Angeles man who was shot in Manhattan last week.

Police believe that the alleged killer is a professional hit man because of his calm demeanor during the shooting. Providing more evidence for their claim, cameras showed the gunman arriving to the scene at least 30 minutes before the shooting.

“The man could be seen exiting – and carefully pulling the hood of his jacket over his head – the passenger side of the parked Lincoln sedan and pacing as he waited,” according to an NYPD officer.

Detectives are tying the shooting to Queens. Cameras captured the get away car speeding through the Midtown Tunnel to Queens, where it was found, parked on Wednesday December 19. After a license plate reading, police found that the Lincoln Sedan was rented from Avis Car Rental, in Huntington Station. Avis was already investigating that particular site after noticing their employees renting cars on behalf of unidentified third parties.

Police have also searched Woodard’s California condo, but were unable to find any drugs, weapons or evidence.  Detectives are examining three phones carried by Woodard when he flew to New York as well. The gunman has not been found and NYPD continues to investigate.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

December 20, 2012

By Brian W. Carter

LAWT Staff Writer

 

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has ruled in favor of Pasadena police officers, Jeffrey Newlen and Mathew Griffin, in the shooting of 19-year old Kendrec McDade. It has been determined that the police officers responded with necessary force when they fatally shot the unarmed teenager.

A letter, received Monday, from the district attorney's Justice System Integrity Division stated an investigation concluded the officers acted in lawful self-defense and in defense of others.

On March 24, McDade was shot after a false 911 call from Oscar Carillo who claimed assailants had robbed him at gunpoint. It was stated that McDade was seen reaching for his waistband during a pursuit. Prosecutors stated that McDade was shot twice, one officer having wounded him, the second from the other officer believing Mcdade had opened fire.

Carillo, an undocumented worker, stated in the 911 call eight times that the men who robbed him were armed. It was later revealed that he admitted to having lied about the suspects being armed to garner a quicker response. Carillo was arrested on manslaughter charges but prosecutors declined to charge him.

Caree Harper, attorney for McDade’s father Kenneth McDade, has stated she didn’t agree with the D.A.’s ruling, especially concerning Carillo.

“You can’t have both, either (Carrillo) is responsible or he’s not, you can’t have it both ways,” said Harper.

“You can’t slice the story, cut and splice it the way you like it; you argue out of both sides of your mouth. Either he is responsible for making a false report and he should be held accountable and officers should have responded code three with cameras activated, or they didn’t believe the false report.”

The McDade shooting happened after the controversial Trayvon Martin shooting, which raised even more ire earlier this year.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

December 13, 2012

By Jennifer Bihm

Assistant Editor

 

“The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider marriage equality takes our nation one step closer to realizing the American ideal of equal protection under the law for all people,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris, part of a growing number of elected officials and community leaders lauding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to review a California gay marriage case and the validity of Proposition 8.

“For justice to prevail, Proposition 8 must be invalidated so that gay and lesbian families are finally treated with equality and dignity.”

Proposition 8, a descendent of California’s 2000 Proposition 22, was the “California Marriage Protection Act,” later titled “Eliminates Rights of Same Sex Couples to Marry” on the November 2008 ballot. The prop added to the “Declaration of Rights” portion of the state’s constitution, providing that “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The ban on gay marriage went into effect the day after Prop 8 passed and was in direct opposition to the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling that it was unconstitutional.

The next year, same sex couple Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir, applied for a marriage license in Alameda County, which was denied, as was one for Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo. The couples filed a suit against state officials including then Governor Arnold Schwarz­enegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown. Brown agreed that the ruling violated the 14th Amendment to the United State’s Constitution and did not participate in the defense; neither did Schwarz­enegger although he did agree that the courts should hear the case.

ProtectMarriage.com organizer Dennis Hollingsworth a staunch supporter of Prop 8, was allowed to step in as a defendant. Now governor, Brown continues his refusal to defend the lawsuit as does Harris who promised as much during her campaign for attorney general. Other elected officials are also weighing in, looking forward, they said, to the ban being overturned.

“I sincerely hope that the Supreme Court finds Proposition 8 violates the promise of equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution,” Senator Barbara Boxer said in a statement released shortly after the December 7 decision.

“I believe support for marriage equality keeps growing stronger.”

“Today’s announcement that the Supreme Court will take up Hollingsworth v. Perry and the challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act is a reminder that the pathway to justice is long and difficult,” said Speaker John A. Perez, who also released a statement last week.

“I am very confident that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of our community in Hollingsworth v. Perry, as it is now known, and affirm that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. But until that outcome is secured, our community must continue to fight for justice on every front, from working to secure the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to addressing the issues of homelessness among LGBT Youth.”

LGBT activist Jasmyne Cannick agrees. While attitudes about same-sex marriage are changing—with about 48 percent of Americans in favor of it, the community should stay “focused on the real issues facing all of us—gay, lesbian, and heterosexual--jobs, affordable housing, education, and access to healthcare,” she said.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the Supreme Court’s decision an ‘opportunity.’ 

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court faces the opportunity to rectify the injustices caused by denying gay and lesbian Americans the right to follow their hearts and marry the person they love,” he said.

“I am confident that the highest court in our land will follow the wisdom of the 9th Circuit and grant all couples — regardless of sexual orientation — the freedom to marry.”

“We understand that our nation has to be a nation of laws and that there is one class of people, and the law has to apply equally to all of us regardless of race, gender, class or sexual orientation,” Black AIDS Institute Executive Director Phil Wilson.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will affirm that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.”

The Court is expected to make the final decision in June 2013.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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