The Trump administration this week is set to resume this year’s wave of federal executions following a 17-year hiatus
MICHAEL TARM AP Legal Affairs Writer
September 22, 2020, 5:01 AM
• 4 min read
CHICAGO — A former U.S. soldier who said an obsession with witchcraft led him to slay a Georgia nurse in a bid to lift a spell he believed she put on him is the first of two more inmates the federal government is preparing to put to death this week.
William Emmett LeCroy, 50, on Tuesday would be the sixth federal inmate executed by lethal injection this year at the U.S. prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Another is scheduled for Thursday of Christopher Vialva, who would be the first African-American on federal death row to be executed this year. LeCroy is white, as were four of the five inmates executed earlier. The fifth was a Navajo.
Critics say President Donald Trump’s resumption of federal executions this year after a 17-year hiatus is a cynical bid to help him claim the mantel of law-and-order candidate leading up to Election Day. Supporters say Trump is bringing long-overdue justice to victims and their families.
Lawyers asked Trump in a recent petition to commute LeCroy’s sentence to life in prison, citing, among other things, that LeCroy’s brother, Georgia State Trooper Chad LeCroy, was killed during a routine traffic stop in 2010, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“The pain and sorrow felt by the LeCroy family at potentially losing two of their sons is unimaginable,” the petition said.
LeCroy broke into the Cherrylog, Georgia, mountain home of 30-year-old Joann Lee Tiesler on Oct. 7, 2001, and waited for her to return from a shopping trip. When she walked through the door, LeCroy struck her with a shotgun, bound and raped her. He then slashed her throat and repeatedly stabbed her in the back.
LeCroy had known Tiesler because she lived near a relative’s home and would often wave to her as he drove by. He later told investigators he’d come to believe she might have been his old babysitter he called Tinkerbell, who LeCroy claimed sexually molested him as a child. After killing Tiesler, he realized that couldn’t possibly be true.
Two days after killing Tiesler, LeCroy was arrested driving Tiesler’s truck after passing a U.S. checkpoint in Minnesota heading to Canada.
Authorities found a note LeCroy wrote before his arrest in which he asked Tiesler for forgiveness, according to court filings. “You were an angel and I killed you,” it read. “I am a vagabond and doomed to hell.”
LeCroy, who joined the Army at 17 but was soon after discharged for going AWOL, later spoke about an interest in witchcraft that began during a previous stint in prison for burglary, child molestation and other charges.
LeCroy said he ruminated for days before the slaying about how Tiesler was Tinkerbell and that assaulting her would reverse a hex she put on him. After he cut her throat, he went to Tiesler’s computer to search for books about witchcraft, filings say.
Jurors in 2004 convicted LeCroy on a federal charge of carjacking resulting in death and then recommended a death sentence.
LeCroy’s lawyers have sought to halt the execution on appeal on multiple grounds, including that his trial lawyers didn’t properly emphasize evidence about his upbringing and mental health that could have persuaded jurors not to impose a death sentence.
None of those appeals have succeeded, though lawyers could continue to ask for court intervention up to the hour of his scheduled execution. Last-minute legal appeals by the previous five death-row inmates all failed.
The petition to Trump notes that the man who killed LeCroy’s brother, Gregory Favors, pleaded guilty in state court and received a sentence of life in prison, arguing that the two cases show how capital cases can often be arbitrary.
“The wildly disparate impact of local federal prosecutors’ use of their discretion to apply the death penalty is a compelling reason for an act of mercy toward the LeCroy family that has already suffered such a great loss,” the petition said.
The vast majority of executions in recent decades have been carried out by states. Over previous 56 years, before the Trump administration’s reboot of executions in 2020, the federal government had executed just three people — all in the early 2000s. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was among them.
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The mayor and police chief say outside agitators have been arrested.
September 6, 2020, 10:41 PM
• 7 min read
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and the city’s police chief La’Ron Singletary called for calm Sunday as the city geared up for another night of protests following the death of Daniel Prude.
Warren’s pleas came after authorities said outside agitators have plotted to damage the city and after police used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse a crowd of over 1,200 people Saturday night.
Warren stood by Singletary and the police department and commended them for their restraint during the last couple of nights of protest. Singletary added that officers have arrested suspects from out of state and cited intelligence from social media that some of the alleged agitators planned to damage the city’s public safety building during the protests.
“People from outside of the city like Alaska and Massachusetts have been arrested,” Singletary said at the news conference.
The protests stem from last week’s release of body camera footage showing the March 23 incident involving Rochester police officers and Prude, 41. Prude’s brother Joe called 911 to get help, saying Daniel was having a mental health emergency.
The officers are seen pinning Prude to the ground while the bag is still on his head, and he eventually goes lifeless. Prude died in the hospital a week later.
Seven Rochester officers have been suspended with pay as New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s office investigates the incident, which is part of New York state’s protocol anytime someone dies in police custody. On Saturday, James announced she would empanel a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.
Protests that have taken place in the city since the news broke have become contentious between those involved and the police. Officers say they’ve been struck by bottles and rocks and have had to use pepper spray, tear gas and other weapons to disperse crowds during the demonstrations, including the one on Saturday night.
About 1,500 people marched downtown Saturday and some allegedly set off fireworks, according to the Rochester Police Department. Three officers were treated for injuries related to the fireworks and nine people were arrested, according to the police.
Warren said she is coming up with a plan that would allow protesters to assemble while at the same time protecting people from injuries and damage to buildings. She called on the city’s elders to meet at a church Sunday evening to work to keep the demonstrations as peaceful as possible.
“Our elders will stand as the buffer between the protesters and our police department,” she said.
At the same time, Warren acknowledged that the department and city should have done more to protect Prude.
“We have to own the fact that in that moment, we did not do that,” she said.
The mayor revealed that she first saw the body camera footage last month but could not take any direct action because of the investigation by the attorney general. She defended Singletary and his actions thus far in the investigation, saying that he’s done everything by the book and has not impeded or covered up the case.
“I wholeheartedly believe RPD Chief Singletary can lead us through this time,” she said.
In the meantime, Warren and Singletary said the city is already working to change the way the city responds to mental health emergency calls. The city will double the availability of mental health professionals and the police will review its measures in place for handling such emergencies, according to the mayor and chief.
“Certain calls shouldn’t be handled by police,” Singletary said.
Authorities in Texas are searching for another missing Fort Hood soldier amid a tumultuous period for the base that’s included multiple service members turning up dead.
Sgt. Elder Fernandes, a 23-year-old chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) specialist assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, has not been heard from by his family since Sunday, prompting them to report him missing three days later, according to a statement from the Killeen Police Department on Thursday and comments made by family members to ABC News Friday.
Elder Fernandes’ mother, Ailina Fernandes, and brother, Elton Fernandes, told ABC News in a telephone interview that he had reported being sexually harassed in the months leading up to his disappearance.
“It was an ongoing investigation for two months that will never get closure,” his mother said. “And there’s a lot more that I don’t know; only Elder will be able to tell us, when we find him.”
The 1st Cavalry Division confirmed there is an open investigation into alleged abusive sexual contact involving Fernandes to ABC News Friday evening, saying that he was moved to a new unit and steps were taken to shield him from retribution.
“The unit sexual assault response coordinator has been working closely with Sgt. Fernandes, ensuring he was aware of all his reporting, care, and victim advocacy options,” said division spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam. “The unit also facilitated his transfer from a unit who has recently deployed to a different unit within the brigade to ensure he received the proper care and ensure there were no opportunities for reprisals.”
Updates will be provided when the investigation is complete, he added.
Fernandes’ older brother, Elton Fernandes, said that he spoke to him about the alleged incident, asking if it was true.
“He came and told me ‘yes,’ but not to worry about it because he’s taking care of it,” Elton said.
Brautigam also confirmed that Fernandes was hospitalized from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17, the day he went missing.
The Army did not give the reason for the hospitalization, citing patient confidentiality rules.
His mother and aunt, Isabel Fernandes, told ABC News that they spoke to him on the phone several times while he was at the hospital, but he did not reveal much as to why he was there.
But their contact ended abruptly, according to his aunt.
“On Sunday, he spoke with his mom, promising that he will call on Monday from his phone to give us more information,” said Isabel Fernandes.
Fernandes was last seen by his staff sergeant on Monday afternoon, when he was dropped off at a residence located in the 2700 block of Woodlands Drive in Killeen, police said. His aunt said Fernandes used to live at the address, but his former roommate told the family he had not stayed there for some time, and never entered after he was dropped off.
On Wednesday, his mother traveled from her home in Boston to Texas to search for her son. She said she went on base with police and found his only known car still parked there.
Fernandes also had a new apartment waiting to be moved into with rent and utilities paid, but he never picked up the key, according to his aunt and mother.
As law enforcement agencies continue to investigate, Fort Hood is continuing its own search efforts.
“The unit continues to search areas of the base and is periodically checking his home, area hotels, and other areas of interest,” a Fort Hood official said.
Based on information gathered from fellow soldiers, Fernandes “may have left Fort Hood on his own accord,” according to a statement from the Army Criminal Investigation Command Friday.
The statement also said Fernandes did not report to work Monday as scheduled. Fernandes was officially considered Absent Without Leave (AWOL) on Tuesday, according to a base official.
“This status enables multiple agencies to be involved in the search for Sgt. Fernandes as we work to find him,” Brautigam said.
Fernandes’ aunt told ABC News the Army hasn’t provided much helpful information.
“I guess the police is helping, but the Army’s not so much,” she said. “They can’t give answers. Everything is like pulling teeth to get any information from them.”
His mother agreed.
“I can’t get access to any information, the Army is not giving any information to no one. So I’m trying to see for when the lawyer gets in contact with them and more higher people, they will be able to give us some information, because they know,” she said.
Brautigam said that unit leaders have been in contact with the family daily to provide comfort and updates as they become available. They first reached out Aug. 11, when Fernandes was admitted to the hospital, he added.
“We appreciate the working relationship we have with his family as we work together to find him and provide for his well being,” Brautigam said.
The Fernandes family has retained an attorney, Natalie Khawam, who’s also the attorney for the family of Vanessa Guillen, 20, who went missing from Fort Hood in late April and whose remains were discovered near the base months later.
Guillen’s mother said a few months before her daughter went missing, Vanessa told her she was being sexually harassed by a superior but didn’t report it out of fear of retaliation.
Fernandes’ disappearance comes after a difficult month for Fort Hood.
Pvt. Mejhor Morta, a 26-year-old Fort Hood soldier, was found dead on July 17 in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir, government officials and local police said. Investigators said he likely drowned, though no foul play is suspected.
About two weeks before that, on July 1, human remains were discovered near Fort Hood and subsequently identified as Guillen. A suspect in the case, 20-year-old Army specialist Aaron Robinson, died by suicide as officials closed in on him. Another suspect, Cecily Aguilar, 22, Robinson’s girlfriend, is accused of helping him dispose of Guillen’s body. She was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and pleaded not guilty.
On June 19, skeletal remains found near Fort Hood, following an anonymous tip, were later identified as Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, who had been last seen Aug. 19, 2019. Investigators suspect foul play, according to Houston ABC station KTRK.
Fernandes was last seen wearing a black Army T-shirt and shorts with black, orange and yellow athletic shoes. Anyone with information on Fernandes is urged to contact the Fort Hood Military Police at 254-288-1170, U.S. Army CID at 254-287-2722, or the Killeen Police Department at 254-200-7905.
ABC News’ Luis Martinez contributed to this report.
Hertz Global Holdings Inc said it won bankruptcy court approval on Friday to sell up to $1 billion in stock, capitalizing on a remarkable rally in its shares driven by speculators defying conventional market wisdom, Trend reports with reference to Reuters.
Hertz’s shares have risen 250% since June 4, even though their value is likely to be wiped out by the end of its bankruptcy process as creditors take over the U.S. car rental company. The shares soared as much as 680% earlier this week.
Investors, many of them amateur traders who use apps such as Robinhood, are betting on how high they can push the stock before it collapses. Record savings, stimulus checks, low interest rates and even lockdown boredom in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak have all been cited by market pundits as possible explanations for the extraordinary move.
The stock sale could benefit creditors seeking to recover more of their claims during the bankruptcy process. Hertz said in court filings that it would disclose to investors in the stock offering that the shares could “ultimately be worthless.”
“Hertz is acting as if it wasn’t bankrupt,” said UCLA Law School professor Lynn LoPucki. “The market thinks there’s equity in this company.”
Hertz, which had roughly $18.8 billion in debt at the end of March, is one of the largest companies so far to be undone by the coronavirus pandemic, which has crushed the travel industry.
Hertz is not the only U.S. company in bankruptcy whose shares have soared in recent days. J. C. Penney Company Inc, Chesapeake Energy Corp and Whiting Petroleum Corp have also seen similar rallies.
Hertz, which filed for bankruptcy protection on May 22, was among the most popular companies on the Robinhood app used by mom-and-pop investors earlier this month.
The L.A. Police Commission held a Zoom meeting with the community.
June 3, 2020, 12:38 AM
5 min read
5 min read
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore has apologized for “misspeaking” after making controversial remarks about the death of George Floyd at a press conference Monday night. But Moore was confronted by angry callers on a virtual meeting Tuesday meant to address tensions and repeatedly asked to resign.
Moore was addressing the violence and looting at the protests Monday night in Los Angeles when he said, “We didn’t have protests last night, we had criminal acts, we didn’t have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd, we had people capitalizing it. His death is on their hands as much as it is those officers.'”
The final sentence, seemingly blaming protesters for the death of Floyd, which has sparked nationwide protests against police, generated immediate rebukes online.
Now calling his initial words offensive, Moore said in a statement that while looting is wrong it is a false comparison to murder and he deeply regrets and apologizes for his “characterization.”
“Let me be clear: The police officers involved were responsible for the death of George Floyd,” he added.
There were almost 700 arrests on Monday night, 70 which involved burglary or looting, according to the LAPD.
The comments came at a time when the nation is in anguish, reeling from another death of an unarmed black man in police custody.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti showed support for his police chief on Tuesday.
He responded to the controversy in a short statement on Twitter, writing, “The responsibility for George Floyd’s death rests solely with the police officers involved. Chief Moore regrets the words he chose this evening and has clarified them.”
While some showed support for Moore online, many are calling for Moore’s resignation.
Tuesday morning, after Moore’s apology, the L.A. Police Commission held a Zoom meeting where callers from the community sharply criticized the LAPD’s history of police brutality and called for Moore’s immediate firing.
The meeting hit its 500 people cap within minutes and it has tens of thousands of views online.
A resident of Los Angeles said on the call, “The fact that was your unscripted instinct, we see who you are and if you the members of the police commission refuse to hold him accountable you deserve to be terminated from your positions as well, you need to police the police.”
One caller after another expressed their anger and frustration directly at the chief and the commissioners, questioning the sincerity of their commitment to end racial injustice within the department.
In an impassioned speech, another caller said the department’s responses were “hollow,” adding, “We’re not asking for too much, we simply want police to stop killing us and to be accountable when they do.”
Los Angeles County is under curfew for a third day Tuesday.
Several hours after President Donald Trump declared the novel coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan aid package to help ease the economic pain of COVID-19.
There are at least 2,174 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 49 coronavirus-related deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and ABC News reporting.
Globally, there are at least 145,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 5,400 deaths.
Tune into ABC News Live at noon ET every weekday for the latest news, context and analysis on the novel coronavirus, with resources from the full ABC News team.
Today’s biggest developments:
Trump says he took test
US travel ban extended to UK, Ireland
House passes COVID-19 stimulus package
Apple closing all stores outside of China
US death toll rises to 49
Here’s the latest on the developing situation. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates.
3:38 p.m. Berlin closes restaurants, pubs
The Berlin Senate decided that all public and non-public events in the city are prohibited for 50 participants or more.
Restaurants, bars, theaters, museums, places of prostitution and similar places of entertainment will be shut down until further notice.
There are exceptions: Restaurants that prepare food on site can remain open, but they’ll be required to keep the tables 1.5 meters, about 5 feet, apart.
For public and non-public events with up to 50 persons, organizers must keep an attendance list with everyone’s name, postal address and telephone number. The list must be kept for at least four weeks and must be handed over in full at the request of the public health department.
3:35 p.m. Preventive measures announced in Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the closing down of numerous public spaces until further notice.
Restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms will shutter on Sunday. Supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and banks will remain open.
Netanyahu said that gatherings of 10 people or fewer will still be allowed.
After announcing on Friday that schools and universities would be closed indefinitely, he said kindergarten classes will now also be closed.
3:26 p.m. Macy’s employee tests positive
A part-time employee at Macy’s Herald Square location in New York City has tested positive, the company said in a statement.
“This colleague has NOT been in the store for the last two weeks and has NOT been in direct contact with colleagues or customers since experiencing symptoms,” the company said.
Macy’s said it doesn’t believe there’s a risk to colleagues or customers and that all stores “are operating with enhanced cleaning standards.”
3:18 p.m. Trudeau’s wife ‘doing very well’
Trump tweeted that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie, is “doing very well” after testing positive.
3:06 p.m. RNC Chairwoman tested after experiencing flu-like symptoms
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, is being tested after experiencing a fever and flu-like symptoms, according to an RNC spokesman.
McDaniel, the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, went to a hospital and was tested for flu and strep. Both tests came back negative, said the spokesman, Michael Ahrens, who added that everyone who’d been in contact with McDaniel is being notified.
She and her family are quarantining at home.
2:55 p.m. Restaurants, cafes closed in France
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced at a press conference the decision to close all places that receive the public and are “not essential to the continuity of the life of the nation”.
This includes restaurants, cafes and cinemas, all of which will be closed until further notice.
Places of worship will remain open, but religious gatherings will be postponed. Public transportation will continue, and municipal elections are still scheduled for Sunday.
1:46 p.m. Archdiocese of New York cancels masses
The Archdiocese of New York has canceled masses beginning this weekend. No time frame was given for when they’d resume.
The decision follows Dutchess County announcing that gatherings of more than 20 people are prohibited, according to a statement from the Archdiocese.
Churches, however, will remain open for private prayer and a private Mass will be livestreamed on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral website.
“Let us pray for all who are sick, as well as doctors, nurses, caregivers and all those working hard to combat the disease,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York. “We should also remember those whose lives have been otherwise disrupted, especially anyone who has lost income from a loss of work during this difficult time.”
1:24 p.m. Death toll in Italy rises
There have been 175 deaths in Italy over the last 24 hours, raising the total to 1,441.
The number of positive cases has now reached 17,750 and more than 109,000 tests have been issued, according to local authorities.
1:14 p.m. Pompeo ‘in good health’
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is “is in good health” and following the advice of physicians, a department spokesperson said, after he was potentially exposed to the virus on a recent trip to Ethiopia.
It’s unclear whether Pompeo took a test for COVID-19. The spokesperson also said that all State Department travel is permitted only if “mission critical,” and senior agency officials must approve all travel.
State Department personnel in Washington and overseas are also now permitted to telework and use “other workplace flexibilities,” like rotational schedules and virtual meetings, according to the spokesperson — joining other federal agencies in implementing contingency plans for its nearly 76,000 employees.
12:39 p.m. Trump says he got tested
Trump said on Saturday that he has taken a COVID-19 test and is awaiting the results.
Trump, who said on Friday he’d “most likely get tested,” said he’s unsure when his results will come back.
His temperature was taken, and he said it was “totally normal.”
On Friday, Trump said he’d “most likely” get tested.
12:33 p.m. Travel ban extended to UK and Ireland
The U.S. travel ban currently in place for parts of Europe has been extended to the UK and Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed.
The president said on Friday he was considering adding the U.K.
Trump announced last week a ban on some travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The area Trump restricted is known as the Schengen zone and is made up of 26 countries including Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
12:23 p.m. Press member turned away from White House briefing
A member of the press was turned away from a White House briefing because his temperature was too high.
Several photographers and reporters, including an ABC News reporter, saw him turned away outside the briefing room doors. That man, who declined to disclose his name or media outlet, was led away from the premises.
Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, later tweeted: “According to the White House Medical Unit, the temperature was taken three times over a 15 minute period – all three registered above the @CDCgov 100.4 guidelines.”
12:15 p.m. Google appears to downplay Trump’s statement on website
Google said it was in the “early stages” of developing a tool to help testing, contradicting President Donald Trump’s announcement yesterday that “it’s going to be very quickly done.”
Verily, which was previously Google Life Sciences, did not provide details on the tool, only saying there was a plan to test it in the Bay Area “with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”
It struck a much different tone than Trump’s address Friday, in which he thanked Google for “helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”
11:46 a.m. State of emergency declared in Georgia
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health state of emergency.
The governor said the declaration will help health and emergency management officials across the state by “deploying all available resources for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19.”
“Over the past few weeks, our state has been facing an unprecedented public health threat with the spread of novel coronavirus,” Kemp said. “In only a matter of days, communities within the metro-Atlanta area and North Georgia have seen several cases, including hospitalizations, where the source of infection is unknown.”
There are at least 66 cases in the state, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
11:34 a.m. CVS announces strategy
CVS said it is working on conducting tests in the parking lots of selected stores.
The announcement comes a day after Trump said private sector companies, including CVS, would be involved in addressing the crisis.
The company said although details are still being worked out, customers inside the store would not be affected by the tests.
“Individuals being tested will not have to leave their cars,” CVS said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing more details as they become available.”
11:12 a.m. 2 large grocery store chains to close early
Publix and Harris Teeter grocery stores announced they will close early, starting this weekend.
All Publix Super Markets are adjusting store and pharmacy hours, shutting down at 8 p.m. starting Saturday until further notice, according to a company statement. Harris Teeter stores will close at 9 p.m. until further notice, beginning Sunday, according to a statement posted to Twitter.
Both grocers said closing earlier gives them more time to sanitize stores.
11:07 a.m. ‘Priority calls’ only for Colorado police
Police in Aurora, Colorado, will only respond to “priority calls” for service amid the pandemic, the department said in a Facebook post.
A priority call is defined as “any situation where there is a crime in a progress,” according to the statement.
“We are taking these measures in an abundance of caution for your safety as well as the safety of our officers,” the department said. “Police Officers frequently are in contact with many citizens, and we want to minimize the potential of our daily interactions from causing an exposure risk to you.”
Citizens are encouraged to use the department’s online reporting system, which can be found here.
11:02 a.m. House Republican says Trump should be tested
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said it “should go without saying” that Trump should be tested for novel coronavirus.
10:17 a.m. Cuomo announces 1st death in New York
An 82-year-old woman has died in a New York City hospital after arriving March 3. She had an underlying respiratory illness, emphysema, for which she was been previously hospitalized. There are now 524 cases of COVID-19 in New York state.
9:45 a.m. Bolsonaro will isolate for a week, get tested again
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s press office has confirmed that he will self-isolate for a week, after which he will seek another test.
This comes after four members of his delegation during last weekend’s trip to meet Trump at Mar-a-Lago now have tested positive for COVID-19. Bolsonaro on Friday denied Brazilian press reports that he too, had tested positive, calling it “fake news.” His office still won’t say whether he’s tested positive. His next test is scheduled for Friday.
9:44 a.m. Obituaries fill Italian newspaper
The obituary section is making up most of Saturday’s edition of the Bergamo Eco. The section is 10 full pages.
The tradition in Bergamo, an Italian city northeast of Milan, is to still put death notices in the paper and posters on the street. The population of Bergamo is roughly 120,000.
9:28 a.m. Iran closes 2 major shrines for pilgrims
Iran closed the holy shrine of Fatima Masoumeh in Qom and the great mosque of Jamkaran, also close to Qom, after over three weeks of the first coronavirus infection reported. The shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad is also to be closed for three days.
The shrines closed amid controversy between health officials and religious conservatives over the closings.
5:41 a.m. Pentagon restricts domestic travel for service members
New travel restrictions approved Friday by the Department of Defense limit all domestic travel for service members, their families and DoD civilians.
The new rule, an attempt to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, goes into effect on Monday and will last through May 11.
Even service members who have orders to move to new assignments or bases in the U.S. will not be allowed to move while the restrictions are in place, according to the DoD.
The Pentagon also announced, effective midnight Sunday, that it’s restricting who enters the Pentagon. All tours, unofficial visits and all international visits have ended.
Additionally, any military member or civilian employee who has carried out recent foreign travel will not be allowed into the building until they have completed 14 days back in the U.S.
3:04 a.m. Apple closing all stores outside China
Apple CEO Tom Cook announced early Saturday morning that all of his company’s stores outside of greater China would close until March 27.
“The global spread of COVID-19 is affecting every one of us,” Cook said in a statement. “At Apple, we are people first, and we do what we do with the belief that technology can change lives and the hope that it can be a valuable tool in a moment like this.”
In an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus and treat those who are sick, Cook said Apple has donated $15 million.
“There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment,” Cook said. “… As President Lincoln said in a time of great adversity: ‘The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.'”
1:24 a.m. House passes stimulus package
With a 363 to 40 vote, the House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday.
The bill, which is an economic aid package designed to help ease the financial pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be considered by the Senate on Monday.
“Senators will need to carefully review the version just passed by the House,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Saturday. “But I believe the vast majority of Senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses.”
The cost of the bill is unknown, however, the bill includes $1 billion for National Disaster Medical System to reimburse people without health insurance, $82 million for Defense beneficiaries, $64 million for Indian Health Service and $60 million for veterans.
“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump tweeted Monday prior to the vote. “I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt.”
12:21 a.m. Trump physician says quarantine, COVID-19 test ‘not currently indicated’ for president
Despite coming into contact with multiple people who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, Trump’s physician said late Friday night that a home quarantine or COVID-19 test are “not currently indicated.”
Last week while hosting the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, Trump came in close contact with at least two people who later tested positive for the virus, according to Trump physician Dr. Sean Conley.
One person only had a brief interaction with the president — a handshake and photograph — and began to show symptoms three days after the interaction. The other shared a table with the president, but Conley said that person was symptom-free until Friday. Both interactions are defined as “low risk” for transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Given the president himself remains without symptoms, testing for COIVD-19 is not currently indicated,” Conley wrote Friday. “I will continue to closely monitor and care for the president.”
What to know about coronavirus:
How it started and how to protect yourself: coronavirus explained
What to do if you have symptoms: coronavirus symptoms
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ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, John Santucci, Katherine Faulders, John Parkinson, Luis Martinez, Clayton Sandell, Benjamin Siegel, Phoebe Natanson, Ibtissem Guenfoud, Bruno Nota, Sarah Hucal and Jason Volack contributed to this report.
Before Leah Freeman’s body was found outside of her hometown of Coquille, Oregon, in 2000, her gym shoes, one of them bloody, were virtually the only physical clues police had to figure out what had happened to the missing 15-year-old.
Nearly 20 years later, one of those same shoes has played a key role in freeing from prison the only person who has ever been convicted of killing her: Freeman’s high school boyfriend Nick McGuffin.
To this day, no other arrests have been made in Freeman’s case.
“That’s the reason why I’m here…to keep Leah’s name in the light. To bring her name forward, to get somebody to come forward with the truth of what happened. To get resolution for myself, for her family,” said McGuffin, who is now 37.
“I’m an innocent person,” he added. “They found…vindicating DNA evidence that finally shows what I’ve been saying for nearly 20 years.”
Watch the full story on “20/20” Friday, Feb. 28, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
McGuffin was a high school senior when he and Freeman, a freshman, were dating.
“I asked Leah if she’d go to the prom with me,” he said. “She had a gorgeous white dress, she had her hair done perfectly… I’m glad we went and got the pictures that we did together.”
But Freeman’s mother, Cory Courtright, had concerns about their relationship. In a 2010 interview with “20/20,” she said she thought McGuffin “seemed like an OK kind of guy,” but she said their age difference bothered her.
“I found out that they were being sexually active, and that was disturbing to me,” Courtright said at the time. “It caused some conflict between Leah and I…because she wanted him to be her boyfriend and I didn’t.”
On the night of June 28, 2000, McGuffin dropped off Freeman at her friend Cherie Mitchell’s house with plans to pick her up a couple of hours later for a double date.
Mitchell said she and Freeman got into an argument about how much time Freeman was spending with McGuffin. She said that Freeman, who was upset, took off on foot after storming out of the house.
“I followed her out to the road and that’s when I told her, ‘It’s just, it’s not about you,’” Mitchell told “20/20” in a 2010 interview. “He was trying to take her away and take her away to do things that I wasn’t really welcome [to join].”
When McGuffin came to pick up Freeman at around 9 p.m., Mitchell told him that Freeman had already left. Freeman was last seen walking alone near her high school in downtown Coquille, according to witness testimony, but she never made it home.
McGuffin said he drove around for hours looking for her.
“I went back to Fast Mart probably five or six times,” he said. “There was different people there every time… They didn’t see Leah. I didn’t see Leah.”
McGuffin said he spoke to police officers on two separate occasions that night as he drove around in his 1967 Ford Mustang. The officers had pulled him over for having a broken headlight.
After the second time, McGuffin said he asked his friend at the time, Kristen Steinhoff whom he said he had run into earlier, to help him look for Freeman. He said he and Steinhoff drove around for about an hour or so in her car.
“I dropped Kristen off. … I think it was around 2:00 [in the morning], probably. I decided to go by Leah’s house one more time,” McGuffin said. “I saw a glare on her window, thought it was her TV. … It was 2000. It’s not like she could send me a text. She couldn’t call me on a cellphone. So I thought she was home, and I went home after that.”
The next day, when Freeman hadn’t turned up, her mother and McGuffin went to the police, who initially treated the 15-year-old’s disappearance as a runaway teen case.
“I knew something was wrong,” Courtright told “20/20” in 2010. “Again, this girl had no reason to run away.”
The night she went missing, a mechanic found and picked up one of her gym shoes by a cemetery near the high school. He believed it may have belonged to one of his kids – but days later, realized it may be connected to the missing girl and turned it into police. Her other shoe was found about a week later, outside of town – with blood on it.
About five weeks after she disappeared, on August 3, 2000, Freeman’s decomposing body was found on a steep wooded embankment, eight miles away through back roads from where the first shoe was found.
When he heard the news, McGuffin said, “It was like my world was over.”
“I broke down,” he continued. “That’s the saddest moment that I’ve ever gone through.”
McGuffin said he voluntarily went to the police to be interviewed and turned over his Mustang in hopes it would help with the investigation.
“[I] tried to give them any information that I knew that may be helpful,” he said.
After his initial meeting with police, McGuffin said he was called in again for questioning. He allowed officers to take photos of him, and later learned that they were checking for defensive wounds.
As time passed, the case went cold. McGuffin said he tried to move on with his life, but that he wasn’t able to grieve for Freeman while people suspected he was responsible. With public perception turned against him, he also said it was “hard to go out in public.”
“You’re basically looking over your shoulder to try to figure out who’s gonna come around the corner, who’s gonna start yelling at you,” he said.
Within two years after her death, McGuffin said he was hospitalized for anxiety and tried to end his life.
“It was just a buildup… It’s like when a tea kettle boils and it starts to make that hum, that’s what it was like, you just get an overload,” he said.
Eventually, McGuffin found a passion for cooking and graduated from culinary school, later becoming head banquet chef at The Mill Casino in North Bend, Oregon. After starting a new relationship, he had a daughter in 2007. He said she brought a sense of renewal into his life.
“I was very excited that I was gonna be a father,” he said. “My daughter helped me through a lot.”
As the years dragged on, police could not make any arrests in Freeman’s case, and the small community of Coquille — a town of about 4,000 residents — became more furious that her killer hadn’t been caught. Freeman’s mother, especially, was upset the case remained unsolved.
In 2008, the town got a new police chief, Mark Dannels, who pushed to have the case re-examined.
“When I arrived in Coquille…everybody was talking about the Leah Freeman case. And one of the expectations as a new police chief was, ‘What are you going to do about it, chief?’” Dannels said. “That’s pretty uncommon, number one, to have a 15-year-old teenager killed in a small community town like that. So you can see where the people were upset. Why hadn’t this been solved? And the more I looked into it, the more I felt I had to do something on this case.”
Dannels assembled a team from across the state to organize and consolidate all the old files and re-examine the case with fresh eyes.
They were surprised to discover how scattered the evidence was, with some of it even as far away as Scotland Yard in London, where it had been sent years ago for testing. Police also discovered rolls of undeveloped film from the original investigation, and spent months working overnight just to figure out what evidence they had to start to reinvestigate the case.
Coquille Police went back through the evidence, interviewing hundreds of witnesses, combing through old witness statements — including McGuffin’s — and retesting old evidence to re-examine it with assistance from the new team of forensic experts.
“When they reopened the investigation…I just figured the truth will come out and the real person or persons would be found. And so, yeah. I mean, I didn’t see any of this coming,” McGuffin said, referring to his eventual arrest.
During this round of investigating, police questioned Steinhoff, the friend who helped McGuffin look for Freeman on the night she disappeared.
Steinhoff told authorities that McGuffin had stopped by her house around midnight, they had done drugs, and when he then tried to have sex with her she says she told him to stop.
McGuffin admitted that he did smoke marijuana and kissed Steinhoff that night, but he said everything else she claimed wasn’t true.
“The things Kristen and I did that night, when we were kissing, was wrong. I accept that,” McGuffin told “20/20.” “It doesn’t mean just because I did that…that I didn’t care about [Leah]. It’s not an easy thing to deal with.”
After hearing from more than 100 witnesses, a grand jury returned an indictment against McGuffin. He was arrested on Aug. 23, 2010, and charged with murder.
At McGuffin’s trial in July 2011, a witness said he had seen McGuffin and Freeman together some time after she left Mitchell’s home. The prosecution argued that the couple quarreled and when it turned physically violent, McGuffin killed her.
McGuffin claims he never saw Freeman after he dropped her off at Mitchell’s home at 7 p.m. that night.
Ten of the 12 jurors voted to convict McGuffin on the lesser charge of manslaughter instead of murder. At the time, Oregon was only one of two states that allowed non-unanimous jury verdicts in criminal felony cases.
“My trial came down to people’s words,” McGuffin said. “My story has really never changed.”
McGuffin was sentenced to 10 years in prison, which he first spent at Snake River Correctional Institution before being sent to a labor camp in Oregon’s Tillamook State Forest due to good behavior.
Steinhoff died five years after McGuffin’s conviction.
In 2014, after McGuffin had been incarcerated for four years, attorney Janis Puracal decided to take up McGuffin’s case.
During her review, Puracal said bombshell evidence was revealed — an unidentified man’s DNA on Leah Freeman’s shoes — that eventually led to McGuffin’s conviction being overturned.
When Freeman’s shoes were first tested in 2000, the Oregon State Police crime lab discovered something that DNA technology 20 years ago could not conclusively characterize. They did not mention it in the official report.
“At the time, we used interpretation guidelines that didn’t necessarily discern or distinguish really low levels of DNA,” Chrystal Bell, Forensic Services Division director for the Oregon State Police, told ABC News. “As a result of that, the analysts at the time chose to be very conservative and chose not to actually call out that potential male DNA because she couldn’t decide what it was. So she made no conclusions or statements about that DNA because it was at a very, very low level.”
At the time, Bell said, it was entirely up to the analyst’s “discretion over what they were going to report.”
When McGuffin went to trial in 2011, the DNA technology had advanced enough that the sample could have been re-analyzed to determine that it was a man’s DNA. But no one connected to the case had asked for retesting because they had no idea the sample existed.
“Had they asked us to re-examine that evidence, we would have done so,” said Bell of the Oregon State Police crime lab. “We don’t always have an automatic trigger to go back and do re-examination every time we get additional evidence, whether it’s two years later or five years later or 10 years later.”
In 2017, however, Puracal made that request.
“Finding that exculpatory DNA on the shoes, that was a huge moment for our case,” Puracal told “20/20.” “That was a game-changer for us. We were looking for DNA that would tell us who actually committed this crime. And here, there was DNA of some other man on the victim’s bloodstained shoe … and never reported. That changed everything for us.”
“I was overly excited to find the DNA,” McGuffin added. “It didn’t match me. … I told my attorneys, I told Janis, ‘Let’s go find out what happened… Let’s solve this case once and for all. I mean, that was my push.”
Judge Patricia Sullivan agreed with Puracal that the revelation of this DNA was a game-changer. In December 2019, she ruled that there is a “reasonable probability” that McGuffin’s guilty verdict would have been different had the presence of the unidentified man’s DNA been disclosed to law enforcement, prosecutors and the defense.
“However, without the DNA evidence, Trial Counsel was reduced to showing that (Nick McGuffin) could not have committed the crime and was not able to produce any evidence of an alternative theory,” wrote Judge Sullivan.
The judge set aside McGuffin’s conviction and remanded it back to the trial court.
Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier told “20/20” he decided not to seek a retrial for McGuffin for several reasons, including the lab’s report, the fact that key witnesses had died and the jury had been split on the verdict, and Courtright’s wishes.
“She just flat told me, ‘I cannot take the strain of another trial. I can’t do it,’ and she asked me not to try the case again,” Frasier said of Courtright. “That was probably the biggest factor.”
“Nick’s already served, 97 percent of his sentence,” Dannels said. “So we go back, put this all back together, retry it. You put the family back through this again. For what? To say we were right?”
Nine years after he was convicted for a crime that he has always maintained he never committed, McGuffin was able to walk out of prison a free man.
“I just knew that we had to fight and we had to fight for what’s right,” McGuffin said.
However, Judge Sullivan also said in her ruling overturning the conviction this did not demonstrate his innocence.
“There have been cases in the United States where the evidence clearly shows, beyond any doubt, that the person in jail or prison didn’t do it, and that person needs to get out. That’s an exoneration, in my book,” Frasier said. “What happened here was [McGuffin] was ordered to [get] a new trial. I made the decision not to go forward for a new trial. I still stand behind the investigation of this case… There’s evidence in this record to find this defendant guilty. But we have decided, for a variety of reasons, not to go forward at this time. It’s not that I believe he’s not guilty or innocent, it’s I believe it is not appropriate to proceed.”
Puracal said it was “disappointing” that police and prosecution “continue to say that Nick is guilty in this case.”
“The Department of Justice could have appealed the post-conviction court’s ruling and they chose not to,” she said. “It’s important to recognize where the DNA was found. The DNA was found inside Leah’s shoe as well as outside Leah’s shoe. And it’s found in and around bloodstains on her left shoe. That’s important to know.”
In the weeks since his release, McGuffin has tried to piece his life back together.
“After my exoneration…I had an idea of what it was going to be like, and I was wrong. It’s not easy. It’s actually really hard,” he said.
“[The] D.A., law enforcement, a crime lab…should have some accountability for what they did,” he added. “All I’m asking is for accountability and for them to do their jobs properly.”
“There are not enough markers to put it into the database to see if we can identify somebody that way,” Frasier explained. “If we have a suspect, we can get a DNA sample from them send it in and have them compare it. And that’s what we did with the other potential suspects in the case. And they all came back as not being the donor of that DNA.”
The central problem is that even though authorities now definitively have a sample of male DNA, the sample is so small that it can only exclude matches, but it cannot be used to confirm there is a match with a suspect.
“[The sample] is not suitable to put into the FBI’s database for forensic samples and convicted offenders,” Bell added, “The quality of the DNA was not good enough in 2000, it was not good enough in 2010, and it is still not good enough.”
Today, McGuffin is doing his best to reclaim his life, getting accustomed to keyless cars and talk-to-text on a smartphone. He’s also working on re-establishing his relationship with his daughter, who is now 12.
“I look at her with the strength that she has at her age, I think that helps me,” McGuffin said.
Even though his conviction was overturned, McGuffin said finding a new job has been difficult, which has been hard on him because he said he was looking forward to resuming his career as a chef once he was released.
“It’s not an easy feat. The stigma, even now, trying to get a job. … I want to work. I’m passionate about my career,” McGuffin said. “I remain an innocent man. That’s not going to change.”
McGuffin said he still thinks about Freeman and the life she could have had.
“She should be, what, 35 now? … She would have had a family,” he said.
Now that he’s out, McGuffin said he is determined to fight for the truth for Freeman and get answers as to who killed her.
“I want people to come forward with the truth. I just want the truth. I want to know what happened,” he said. “[We] have a chance right now to clean the slate to make it right. I mean, I’m pretty sure a lot of people would want that. I know Leah would. I know her family wants that. I want the truth for them. What more can I ask for?”
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday warned Russia to stay out of U.S. elections after American officials had told him Moscow was trying to aid his campaign, Trend reports citing Reuters.
“The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign, right now, in 2020. And what I say to Mr. Putin, if elected president, trust me you are not going to be interfering in American elections,” Sanders told reporters in Bakersfield, California.
Sanders, 78, a democratic socialist from Vermont, is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and is favored to win the Nevada caucuses on Saturday.
The Washington Post on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter, said U.S. officials had told Sanders about the Russian effort and had also informed Republican President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers.
It was not clear what form the Russian assistance took, the paper said.
A congressional source confirmed intelligence officials have told lawmakers Russia appears to be engaging in disinformation and propaganda campaigns to boost the 2020 campaigns of both Sanders and Trump.
The source, however, cautioned that the findings are very tentative.
Sanders, a U.S. senator, said he was briefed about a month ago.
“We were told that Russia, maybe other countries, are going to get involved in this campaign,” he told reporters. “Look, here is the message: To Russia, stay out of American elections.”
“What they are doing, by the way, the ugly thing that they are doing – and I’ve seen some of their tweets and stuff – is they try to divide us up,” he said. “They are trying to cause chaos. They’re trying to cause hatred in America.”
The Kremlin on Friday denied Russia was interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign to boost Trump’s re-election chances, following reports that American intelligence officials warned Congress about the election threat last week.
U.S. intelligence officials told members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in a classified briefing that Russia was again interfering in American politics ahead of November’s election, as it did in 2016, a person familiar with the discussion told Reuters on Thursday.
Since that briefing, Trump has ousted the acting intelligence chief, replacing him with a political loyalist in an abrupt move as Democrats and former U.S. officials raised the alarm over national security concerns.
A senior administration official, however, said the nation was better positioned than in 2016 to defend against foreign attempts to influence elections.
“President Trump has made clear that any efforts or attempts by Russia, or any other nation, to influence or interfere with our elections, or undermine U.S. democracy will not be tolerated,” the official said.
On Twitter, the president accused Democrats in Congress of launching a misinformation campaign that says Russia prefers him to any of what he called the “Do Nothing Democrat candidates.” Trump called it a “hoax.”
The students said they were embarrassed and ashamed by the presentation.
January 10, 2020, 4:03 AM
5 min read
A group of black high school students on Long Island claims their science teacher included racially insensitive images in a class presentation that referenced them as monkeys and now they’re planning to sue.
Longwood High School students Jahkeem Moye, Khevin Beaubrun, Gykye Murray and Desmond Dent Jr. said a white teacher presented a slideshow to the class that included a photo of them posing at the Bronx Zoo with the caption “Monkey Do” followed by an image of a gorilla.
The students said they were embarrassed and ashamed by the presentation, according to court documents filed this week. The families served a notice of claim Wednesday indicating their plans to sue Longwood Central School District for discrimination and emotional distress.
“I didn’t know that they were going to put [the photo] in that perspective and show us, compare us to monkeys,” Murray told reporters Wednesday.
In the same press conference, Beaubrun said he was threatened by school administrators to delete a Snapchat video that showcased the slideshow presentation or face suspension.
“I said they had used us like slaves. I posted it on Snapchat, on social media, and he asked me to take it down,” Beaubrun said, referring to his advanced zoology teacher.
Their attorney claims teachers “deliberately persuaded, tricked and cajoled” them into posing together near a Bronx Zoo gorilla exhibit during a class trip in November. The teacher captured the picture and included it in the class presentation about a month later, according to their attorney.
The teacher, identified only as Mr. Heinrichs, allegedly placed the photo in a slideshow between an image of monkeys with the caption “Monkey See,” and an image of a gorilla “thereby misusing the pidgin expression, ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ for racially discriminatory and offensive purposes,” according to the notice of claim.
The families plan to sue for $12 million, accusing the school of discriminating against the students and violating their civil rights.
The Longwood School District declined to identify the teacher and would not say if he had been disciplined. The district called the images “culturally insensitive” and attributed the situation to a “lapse of judgement.”
“The photo was an unfortunate lapse of judgment,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Lonergan said in a statement Wednesday. “Without the intent of doing so, the photo was taken without fully understanding the sensitivity or the hurt it may have caused and reminds us that we must be more aware of the feelings of our multi-cultural population.”
But the students’ attorney, John Ray, said the teacher involved was still teaching as of this week.
“These students are deeply wounded and shamed,” Ray said. “This is institutionalized racial superiority. … There can’t be any question about what they meant.”
“Remember, this is a zoology class, evolution is taught,” he added.
The US House of Representatives holds a full session to vote on two articles of impeachment that have been filed against President Donald Trump, Trend reports citing Sputnik.
If the House Democratic majority votes to impeach on 18 December, the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to start the formal impeachment trial which is likely to occur in the coming weeks or even days. A two-thirds Senate majority – 67 votes – is needed to convict the president and thereby remove him from office.
The impeachment inquiry was launched by House Democrats in September after a whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to probe his political rival and former US Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who once sat on the board of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. Trump has said that the impeachment inquiry is a sham and another political witch hunt by Democrats to reverse the results of the 2016 presidential election.
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