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Back in Court for Jodi Arias Penalty Phase

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Monday starts a new week…..shall we dare say a full week of the Jodi Arias Penalty Phase, at least one can hope.  We are scheduled to have 4 full days and if no interruptions maybe some much needed progress. The defense will have a new witness on the stand and it doesn’t seem to be any of the 3 that have issues with testifying since that hasn’t been ruled on as far as we know. We could possibly be in for another expert or someone that is willing to speak up for Jodi without trying to manipulate the system which seems to be a tactic the defense is using. Will her mom testify? Dad? Sister? It amazed me in the first trial they didn’t, this is mitigation after all and a jury would like to hear from them I’m sure. It doesn’t look like Jodi Arias will be back on the stand anytime soon as Kirk Nurmi stated he wants to see the opinion from the Court of Appeals on their earlier ruling that Jodi wasn’t going to get special privileges of testifying in secret. After he sees the opinion which can come any day he may take this issue to the Supreme Court. Judge Stephens stated she wouldn’t be holding up trial for this but we did end up having no jury for almost a week. The pace of this phase which typically can take days to weeks has been stretched out for months with no end in sight. Issue after issue is plaguing this retrial such as a hearing that went on for weeks over a motion filed by defense wanting the whole case thrown out or death penalty tossed for prosecutorial misconduct. In a mini trial on porn and who turned on and off Travis Alexander’s laptop first, it definitely had more fireworks and heated moments then the actual penalty phase itself.

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With a ruling that the trial world is waiting on from Judge Stephens to see if she denies this latest request from the defense or grants it has us all on pins and needles. I, for one, don’t think the defense has proved their case, and with Juan Martinez’s computer expert taking the stand and blowing a hole in what may have happened to those missing files it just doesn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt the prosecution or police were involved in misconduct. Could things have been handled differently in hindsight? Yes. Did the State delete 70,000 files and modify 9,000? Just don’t know. From the looks of an incinerator program that wound up on the hard drive in question that’s main function is to destroy files, and ends up in the recycle bin during the time the defense was examining the evidence makes their case shaky. The defense’s main focus goes back to when they first examined Travis’s hard drive and how the police and prosecutor let them turn the computer on without a write blocker or a computer forensics’ tech standing by. The State explains they weren’t going to hinder the defense from examining the evidence and they themselves didn’t turn on the laptop. While a game of ping pong was played and witnesses such as Jodi’s ex counsel took the stand it just wasn’t proved that there was any prosecutorial misconduct to the point this case needs dismissed. The deleted files the defense wants Judge Stephens to speculate on were porn files if you ask them. Have they proved that? No. We don’t know what the deleted files were or whose fault it was it happened. We also have conflicting reports on the porn found by defense after all these years on Travis’s hard drive. What once didn’t exist is now being called an enormous amount of porn, teen, tween and adult. The defense said child porn links existed on the hard drive but quickly backtracked saying Travis may not have manually looked for any of this porn it may have had to do with a virus but Kirk Nurmi was sure to put it out there over and over again. Juan’s expert testified to the fact that these porn files were found in the registry of the hard drive which is what virus protection software tends to do, not the user. The expert did say one porn site was found in the history of the hard drive but it didn’t look like it was manually typed in either by the looks of the link and further analysis was still being done. Judge Stephens has a lot on her plate, and some very important decisions to be made that could once again turn this trial upside down or keep this train moving forward. With a jury that has been jacked around now for most of the month of December, and a trial that will now go longer than they were originally told, all we can hope for is progress. While Kirk Nurmi fights for Jodi’s life, Juan Martinez goes to combat for Travis Alexander as he is the victim’s voice that sometimes ends up having to fight a harder war. With all the deflection of porn or no porn on Travis’s computer if it comes in front of a jury I’m not sure it will sway the 12 people when they are making a decision of life or death. To me it comes down to premeditation and what happened in that bathroom on June 4th, 2008. A murder Jodi Arias was convicted of and medical examiner photo’s that speak volumes, 2 simple pieces that make all of the defenses red herrings just that. But, the case isn’t over, and we still have lots of ground to cover and lots of testimony to listen too. This jury needs to regroup and they need to have some court time that goes longer than 1 or 2 days a week to make this fair. For Jodi it’s all about being fair but what’s been happening with these delay’s hasn’t been fair for the jury with a decision of this magnitude. The start and stop nature makes me feel bad for all involved. So many lives have been on hold, and it’s no secret that justice is an unfair beast especially when the system can be manipulated, but enough is enough. Cross your fingers for a full week ahead as we go into the holiday season with a little uncertainty on when this trial will conclude. See you all at the courthouse, The Trial Diaries.

PS…I’m awaiting a special little gift that’s going to be born any day now in my family so hopefully she holds off until we break but if not you will find me clicking my heels down the hospital halls to see her sweet face. I will keep you posted 

Pics-The Arizona Republic

 


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Evidentary Hearing Continues as Jodi Arias Penalty Phase Stall Out Till Monday

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It’s another short week in the Jodi Arias Penalty Phase Re-Trial as we await a big evidentiary hearing that will continue on Thursday at 9:30am MST. The impending hearing is a continuation from the defense dropping a bomb on everyone that has been following this trial. The defense is suggesting the Mesa Police Department and the Prosecutor for the State, Juan Martinez tampered with Travis Alexander’s computer when the case was in its infancy. Defense claims when the computer was first turned on files were instantly destroyed. The more it was turned on without the required write blocker it got worse and worse with modifying files and more deletions. The State said the computer was in the defenses possession at the time it was first turned on. In a he said she said moment, Jodi’s ex lawyer Maria Schaffer denied she was the one that did it and blamed it on Juan. It seemed she was pretty riled up one would even suggest she would do such a thing and she was ready to prove it. Maria posted an article on her personal Facebook from the Arizona Republic of an interview she gave them claiming her innocence on the matter. Before her appearance on the stand she had numerous comments under her Facebook posting slamming the prosecutor so we knew where this testimony was going. Ones social media is never a let down.  Juan said Maria was the one that wanted the evidence and she wanted it turned on to look at the files. Who actually did the turning on is still a mystery but Juan stated she couldn’t look at the files with the computer shut! The time Maria gave to how long the computer was on was also in dispute as Maria stated hours and the computer expert stated 12 minutes.  The point is no write blocker was used and the defense is running with it. We also heard from Bryan Neumeister the computer forensic expert from the first trial that saw Jodi in the reflection of Travis’s eye. Juan actually saw a Mexican Chihuahua, couple people saw Jesus and some of the Jodi fans saw Juan. I have to say for the Jodi fans that don’t want to see Juan they see him in everything, he’s even been accused of being a reflection in a cocktail. Yet, to their disappointment it was verified the reflection was…drum roll….a brussel sprout…but I digress. Bryan Neumeister had a lot to say at this hearing. He stated thousands of porn files were found on Travis Alexander’s computer manually typed and virus driven. During the first trial neither defense computer expert or states found any porn on Travis’s laptop so to hear this now sounded a little odd. The manual taps of the keyboard were surfing on how to give the best BJ’s and hand jobs so that struck me as a peculiar thing for Travis to be looking into, and made me wonder if Jodi sent Travis a little porno surprise or Tony the computer tech got bored. Regardless, Neumeiser said this porn wasn’t just an elephant in the room it was an aircraft carrier and he couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t found sooner. Well, he did throw out a theory the state jacked up the evidence it handed over to defense expert Lonny Dworkin leaving him a victim in all of this. To me Lonny is a victim for having to hold up those penis pictures in court as he waived them around like an American Flag to the judges dismay. But the State sending over tampered evidence…yet to be proved. Juan has yet to defend himself or Detective Flores against these claims of prosecutorial misconduct and we haven’t even heard from his computer expert…. so this still remains a little fishy. Even now with the defense wanting everyone to believe the deleted files were child porn, none of it has been found on the computer. No evidence to suggest Travis was interested in it either. Kirk Nurmi wants the evidence to be Travis said Jodi sounded like a 12 year old girl on the sex tape but that link is a stretch. The other allegation from Jodi was she caught Travis looking a pic of a young boy while masturbating, and this is from a documented liar and not at all proven. Adult porn? Yeah if that’s true, I say “so what.” Juan or Flores could have presented this case from the get go with Travis looking at adult porn and they still would have got a murder one conviction because the chances are some men and women on that jury have looked at it too. Guess what…they didn’t stalk and brutally murder their lover over it. If the porn is presented in court this time around I still say “so what,” a man had his throat slit, head shot, and stabbed multiple times and I guarantee the porn didn’t make her do it. I’m sure Dr. Fonseca would drive 95 down slim hwy if she had her chance at some Sexpert porn assessing but as luck has it she’s off the stand. I’m not sold on this idea defense is selling yet but tomorrow will be telling.

 

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While we wait till Monday to find out who the next defense witness will be it was an extremely intense cross examination of Dr. Fonseca the Sexpert. Juan hammered her for many days breaking down some of the mischaracterizations the defense put in front of the jury regarding Travis Alexander and his conduct. While the defense portrayed Travis as an abusive man that emotionally destroyed Jodi Arias to the point she snapped and killed him, Juan countered with Travis was a victim of a stalking ex girlfriend that wouldn’t let go and murdered him. With Juan’s line of questioning that left no room for elaboration and just a yes or no, Dr. Fonseca wasn’t having it. Instead of answering these questions she would look at the jury and instruct them that Juan was being a very bad boy, mischaracterizing her, destroying her testimony and how dare he take a shot at her creditability? The one thing she did tell Juan was he “was very good at this,” as she looked to the judge for some reprieve from the machine gun questions coming her way. Juan focused on a chat between Travis and Jodi that the defense used to say how mean Travis was. Juan used it to show how fed up with her he was and how it spoke many truths of how their erotic bomb of a relationship was blowing up. In the chat Travis tells Jodi, “you are the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” he talks about how she manipulated him into loving her and he was nothing more than a “dildo with a heartbeat.” This chat sparked one juror to question Dr. Fonseca if she had asked Jodi what the trigger was for this kind of reaction,  Fonseca said Jodi didn’t know and either did she. Many trial watchers have long speculated it was a possible threat of exposing the sex tape to his peers or just her crazy behaviors of slashing his tires, running off his love interests and peeping in his windows. Travis mentioned some of these in his “rant” as the Dr. suggested, but to me it was a bonus for the state. It showed a man that saw the writing on the wall and just couldn’t get away from her. Jodi demonstrated a way with words; she took blame in all the right spots, and what I would call manipulation the Dr. called “suffering in silence.” The one thing Dr. Fonseca was correct on was that this relationship between Travis and Jodi was toxic. While her bias was apparent in many ways this was a true dynamic. The fact Travis didn’t sing it from the rooftops to his community, his church, and otherwise he was having sex with Jodi Arias didn’t make him abusive. Juan stated it very well, it made him private and Jodi Arias wasn’t telling anyone either. The whole closeted woman notion Fonseca spoke of didn’t hold much water when Travis took Jodi on trips, and she was known to his friends as someone he was spending lots of time with. Did they spend most of their time behind closed doors? Maybe, but they were two consenting adults and if Jodi Arias didn’t like it she could have stayed away forever. She was warned by friends Travis wasn’t one to commit and in Jodi Arias fashion she was going to force it. Jodi wasn’t a wilting flower she was aggressive at times and determined to get what she wanted. Juan Martinez brought that forth to the jury by going over past relationships and that when her dad had slapped her as a teen she responded with an “F U Bill,” as she left the house. Where was Bill when she was on the stand for 18 days??? We would have said “Thank U Bill,” had some sense been slapped into her then. Jodi Arias wasn’t the type to “suffer in silence,” and with Dr. DeMarte on the horizon I see more of her behaviors coming to the surface. I mean in the spirit of Christmas maybe the jury will get to hear about her sleeping under Travis’s tree like something Santa delivered, a true surprise. They already heard she has broken down doors, windows and punched holes in walls according to her own words. But the question still remains…will it be enough to get her the death penalty? Will the jury see a woman that was a victim of her childhood and abusive boyfriends or will they see a cold blooded premeditated murderer behind those simple, ordinary glasses? When she takes them off we all see it, something cold, unremorseful, we see the pictures of Travis Alexander butchered. While many think that equates a life sentence many look at their own families, people they love, and see this as a death penalty case. The pictures of his death are strong and tell the story, it was a woman that snapped alright, she planned and murdered her lover, and while I know how I’d vote in this case this jury is leaving little room for speculation of how they are viewing it. The questions were middle of the road. Wanting to know about Travis’s sexual history, if suicidal ideation was a manipulation on both sides, if Travis told Jodi he wanted to keep their relationship private were a few. All questions the Dr. couldn’t answer or had to speculate on. Where this jury’s head is at is not quite black or white…it feels gray. Seems fair as we prepare ourselves to see this trial into the New Year as the walls close in on a final decision in the State vs. Jodi Arias…believe it or not it will happen. See you all at the courthouse- The Trial Diaries


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Bashara ‘medically unfit,’ trial delayed indefinitely

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No Bob Bashara, no jury deliberations.

That’s what it’s come to in court this week as jury deliberations in the Grosse Pointe Park man’s high profile murder trial have been put on hold indefinitely because of a mysterious illness that’s landed Bashara in the hospital.

The Wayne County jail chief announced in a statement tonight that “Mr. Bashara is not medically competent to appear in court at this time.” Bashara is charged with directing his handyman to kill his wife in January 2012 so that he could be with his mistress and inherit most of his wife’s assets.

Wayne County Chief of Jails Jeriel Heard did not elaborate about Bashara’s health, saying only that the sheriff will notify the court when Bashara has been cleared by doctors to appear in court.

Bashara’s lawyer, Lillian Diallo, said Tuesday that that she plans to visit Bashara in the hospital Wednesday.

“We will find out a whole lot more tomorrow,” Diallo said, stressing Bashara needs to be in court for deliberations to resume.

“He’s the only one who has skin in the game,” Diallo said.

Meanwhile, the longer Bashara remains hospitalized, the fuzzier the jurors’ memories will get as they wait to resume deliberations in a case that involved 70-plus witnesses who testified during the two-month-long trial. The judge did not let the jurors keep notes and urged them to rely instead on their memories.

Deliberations started last Thursday and came to an abrupt halt at noon Monday when jurors had a question for the court, but Bashara wasn’t present due to an undisclosed medical condition.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans sent the jury home, concluding that Bashara, 57, needs to be present for any jury questions at this “critical stage” of the trial. He also would need to be in court for a verdict.

Bashara is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the death of his wife, Jane Bashara, 56, who was found strangled in the back of her Mercedes SUV in January 2012. The prosecution alleges Bashara hired handyman Joseph Gentz to kill his wife so that he could be with his mistress, live a BDSM lifestyle, and inherit many of his wife’s assets, including her six-figure 401(k).

Gantz has already confessed to the crime and is serving a maximum 28-year prison sentence for it.

The health of Bob Bashara, who has diabetes, has been an issue several times during the roughly two-month trial. In November, he had a doctor’s appointment; before that, a medical emergency Oct. 29 caused him to collapse. He’d felt pain in his right side and received a cortisone injection, attorneys in the case previously said.

Bashara, who has maintained that he’s innocent, declined to take the stand in the trial. His attorneys have argued he had no motive to kill his wife, who was the breadwinner of the household.

Source: Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

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Utah Teacher Rape: Brianne Land Altice Charged On Five Counts Of Rape After Students Come Forward

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A Utah teacher charged with rape was back in court this week, after a third victim came forward with new information. According to the New York Daily News, teacher Brianne Land Altice, 35, has been accused of seducing 16- and a 17-year-old boys back in 2013, and now a third victim who is believed to be around the same age. The former Davis High School English teacher allegedly carried on inappropriate relationships with these students for several months.

 “The victim claimed to have flirted with Altice while volunteering as a teacher’s assistant until she gave into sex, but he later felt guilty. Their encounters included the teacher’s home, a park and a church parking lot. Her time with the 16-year-old victim overlapped encounters with a second victim that lasted from April to June 2013. The third victim believes the rapes happened in either August or September,” reports the New York Daily News.

The Utah teacher faces five counts of rape, in addition to two counts of forcible sodomy, and three counts of forcible sexual abuse. It is unclear if there are any additional charges in the case. She was scheduled to face a jury in September, but the prosecution’s new information has pushed the trial date back. Altice will be in court on January 15.

According to Sport Act, Altice pleaded not guilty to six charges back in October (four counts of rape and two counts of forcible sodomy). It is believed that she will also plead not guilty to the new charges that the prosecution has brought against her.

“Altice is now charged with five counts of rape as first-degree felonies, two counts of forcible sodomy as first-degree felonies and three counts of forcible sexual abuse.”

Of course, Brianne Land Altice isn’t the first teacher to be accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student or students.

In 2013, another Utah teacher was charged with rape in 2013. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Courtney Louise Jarrell, 22, was a math teacher at Utah’s Riverton High School. Jarrell was accused of having a relationship with a 17-year-old female student. Jarrell was charged with first-degree felony count of object rape and a second-degree felony count of forcible sex abuse.

In more recent news, a teacher’s aide in Pennsylvania admitted to having sexual relations with a 17-year-old student at Valley High School. According to CBS Pittsburgh, 39-year-old Christina Domme faces serious charges in the case, but said that the male student initiated the relationship, and the sex.
Source:  iNQUISITR

 

 

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Sandy Hook families’ suit against gun maker will test federal law

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HARTFORD, Conn. — The lawsuit filed Monday by victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, seeking to hold liable the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 used in the massacre, will test the 2005 federal law designed to protect gun companies by using an exemption normally applied to car accident cases.

The lawsuit by families of nine students and adults killed and one surviving teacher who was shot several times by Adam Lanza will attempt to use what is known as the negligent entrustment exemption to the law. In a negligent entrustment case, a party can be held liable for entrusting a product, in this case the Bushmaster rifle, to another party who then causes harm to a third party,

“The court needs to decide whether they want to extend negligent entrustment from a retailer selling a gun to someone standing right in front of them to the theory that the manufacturer of the weapon is also responsible when the weapon they made is then sold by another party to a third person,” Albany Law School professor Timothy Lytton said Monday.

Lytton, who has written a book about the history of lawsuits against gun companies, said an example of negligent entrustment would be the sale of a weapon by a gun retailer to a suicidal person. A negligent entrustment lawsuit would claim the retailer should have known not to sell that person a gun.

Extending that to the gun manufacturer is unprecedented. Because it has never before been brought before a court, it is difficult to predict what will happen, according to Dennis Henigan, former vice president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Most state judges will want to find a way to allow these victims their day in court,” Henigan said.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed at Superior Court in Bridgeport claims that the Bushmaster AR-15 used by Lanza to kill 26 people, including 20 first-graders on Dec. 14, 2012, inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, should not be sold to the public because it is a military assault weapon designed for war.

In addition to Bushmaster, the lawsuit names Camfour, a firearms distributor, and Riverview Gun Sales, where Nancy Lanza, the shooter’s mother, purchased the Bushmaster in 2010.

“The AR-15 was specifically engineered for the U.S. military to meet the needs of changing warfare,” said lawyer Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Beider of Bridgeport. “The weapon was not designed for home defense or hunting. This weapon was designed to efficiently kill other human beings in combat.”

But the lawsuit claims that Bushmaster is clearly aware that the AR-15 has become the weapon of choice for mass shootings.

“Time and again, mentally unstable individuals and criminals have acquired an AR-15 with ease, and they have unleashed the rifle’s lethal power on our streets, our malls, our places of worship, and our schools,” the lawsuit said.

Adam Lanza used the Bushmaster to shoot his way through the front glass of the school on Dec. 14, 2012. He was immediately confronted by school Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach. He killed them both as they ran into the hallway from a meeting room just outside the main office.

Natalie Hammond was in that same meeting and was shot several times but managed to crawl back into the room and barricade the door. Hammond is the 10th plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Lanza then entered two first-grade classrooms, where he killed 20 first-graders and four more school personnel, including two teachers, before killing himself with a pistol. Overall he fired 154 rounds from the Bushmaster in about five minutes.

Scherlach’s husband, Bill, is one of the plaintiffs. In a statement released by a public relations firm, he said the lawsuit is necessary “to ensure that the gun industry is held to the same rules as every other industry.”

“These companies assume no responsibility for marketing and selling a product (to) the general population, who are not trained to use it nor even understand the power of it,” Scherlach said.” I believe in the Second Amendment but I also believe that the gun industry should be brought to bear the same business risk that every other business assumes when it comes to producing, marketing and selling a product.”

The other plaintiffs are the families of eight others killed: teachers Victoria Soto and Lauren Rousseau; Rachel D’Avino, a special-education teacher; and children Jesse Lewis, Dylan Hockley, Benjamin Wheeler, Daniel Barden and Noah Pozner.

Nicole Hockley, Dylan’s mother, and Mark Barden, Daniel’s father, declined to comment on the lawsuit during an appearance at the State Capitol with members of Congress to mark the second anniversary of the shootings and to reiterate the need for stronger federal gun laws.

Hockley has traveled to the White House and the state Capitol in Hartford to push for legislation, and she says there have been too many tragedies since then from gun violence.

“It’s just not right,” Hockley said Monday. “We are better than this as a people.”

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed in 2005, generally shields licensed manufacturers, dealers and sellers of firearms or ammunition from civil action “resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse” of a firearm or ammunition, according to the Congressional Research Service.

There are six exceptions, including lawsuits brought against a seller for “negligent entrustment,” defined in the law as “the supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.”

The novel approach to suing the gun manufacturer in this case will surely be watched closely around the country and by lawmakers, Henigan said.

“I hope the Connecticut courts find a way for this lawsuit to go forward but if they don’t it will be a powerful example of why we need to repeal the federal law,” Henigan said.

Source: Dave Altimari Hartford Courant

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Police storm Sydney cafe to end hostage siege, three dead

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SYDNEY – Heavily armed Australian police stormed a Sydney cafe early on Tuesday morning and freed a number of hostages being held there at gunpoint, in a dramatic end to a 16-hour siege in which three people including the attacker were killed.

Police have not publicly identified the gunman but a police source named him as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh known for sending hate mail to the families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan. He was charged last year with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the gunman was well known to authorities and had a history of extremism and mental instability.

During the siege at the Lindt cafe in Sydney’s central business district, hostages had been forced to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack in the heart of the country’s biggest city.

Around 2 a.m. local time (10.00 a.m. ET on Monday), at least six people believed to have been held captive managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from the cafe.

Police then moved in, with heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades echoing from the building.

“They made the call because they believed at that time if they didn’t enter there would have been many more lives lost,” said Andrew Scipione, police commissioner for the state of New South Wales.

An investigation would determine whether hostages were killed by the gunman or died in cross-fire, Scipione told reporters just before dawn.

Police said a 50-year-old man, believed to be the attacker, was killed. Television pictures showed he appeared to have been armed with a sawn-off shotgun.

A man aged 34 and a 38-year-old woman were also killed, police said. The man was the cafe manager and the woman was a mother and barrister, local media reported. Four were wounded, including a policeman hit in the face with shotgun pellets.

Medics tried to resuscitate at least one person after the raid and took away several wounded people on gurneys, said a Reuters witness at the scene. Bomb squad members moved in to search for explosives, but none were found.

So far 17 hostages have been accounted for, including at least five others who were released or escaped on Monday.

“To the people of Sydney, this was an isolated incident … Do not let this sort of incident bring about any loss of confidence of working or visiting our city,” said Scipione.

On Tuesday morning, the area near the cafe remained cordoned off, with bystanders and passing office workers leaving flowers under police tape. Flags flew at half mast across the city.

Leaders from around the world had expressed their concern over the siege, including Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, which suffered an attack on its parliament by a suspected jihadist sympathizer in October.

NO LINKS TO TERROR GROUPS

Monis was found guilty in 2012 of sending offensive and threatening letters to families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, as a protest against Australia’s involvement in the conflict, according to local media reports. Monis was also facing more than 40 charges of sexual assault.

“He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability,” Abbott told reporters in Canberra. The prime minister did not identify the gunman.

A U.S. security official said the U.S. government was being advised by Australia that there was no sign at this stage that the gunman was connected to known terrorist organizations.

Although the hostage taker was known to the authorities, security experts said preventing attacks by people acting alone could be difficult.

“We are entering a new phase of terrorism that is far more dangerous and more difficult to defeat than al Qaeda ever was,” ​said Cornell University law professor Jens David Ohlin, speaking in New York.

ON ALERT

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its escalating action against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, has been on high alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East or their supporters.

News footage showed hostages in the cafe holding up a black and white flag displaying the Shahada, a testament to the faith of Muslims. The flag has been popular among Sunni Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

The incident forced the evacuation of nearby buildings and sent shockwaves around a country where many people were turning their attention to the Christmas holiday after earlier security scares.

In September, anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and days later, a teenager in the city of Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife.

The siege cafe is in Martin Place, a pedestrian strip popular with workers on a lunch break, which was revealed as a potential location for the thwarted beheading.

Muslim leaders urged calm. The Australian National Imams Council condemned “this criminal act unequivocally” in a joint statement with the Grand Mufti of Australia.

The security operation was the biggest in Sydney since a bombing at the Hilton Hotel killed two people in 1978.

Source: Lincoln Feast and Colin Packham Reuters

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Bill Cosby’s wife Camille releases statement in support of husband

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Camille Cosby released a statement to the media Monday in defense of her husband comedian Bill Cosby.

“I met my husband, Bill Cosby, in 1963, and we were marred in 1964. The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work,” she said. “He is a kind man, a generous man, a funny man, and a wonderful husband, father and friend. He is the man you thought you knew.”

Camille Cosby continued that she would like to see her husband’s accusers be fully vetted prior to publication of their allegations.

“There appears to be no vetting of my husband’s accusers before stories are published or aired,” she wrote.

“We all followed the story of the article in the ‘Rolling Stone’ concerning allegations of rape at the University of Virginia,” Camille Cosby continued. “The story was heart-breaking, but ultimately appears to be proven untrue. Many in the media were quick to link that to stories about my husband — until that story unwound.”

The 77-year-old comedian had stayed silent in light of the more than two dozen women who have come forward to accuse him of having drugged and raped them until an interview with the New York Post Sunday.

In the interview, Cosby also addressed how his wife, Camille Cosby, has weathered the allegations and ongoing public scrutiny.

“Love and the strength of womanhood,” he said. “Let me say it again, love and the strength of womanhood. And, you could reverse it, the strength of womanhood and love.”

Cosby declined to address the rape and sexual assault allegations, though. According to the report, he’s been advised not to discuss the ongoing cases with the media.

Source: FoxNews.com

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Bob Bashara’s hospitalization delays jury deliberations

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Bob Bashara’s health has caused yet another delay in his sensational murder trial — this time in the middle of deliberations.

Basahara is in the hospital, which means jury deliberations are on hold for at least another day in the high profile trial of the one-time prominent businessman who is charged in the brutal killing of his wife.

According to Bashara’s lawyer, Lillian Diallo, Bashara is unlikely to get out of the hospital by tomorrow, so the jury will not be able to deliberate the case until Bashara improves and is able to be in the courtroom. She said she did not have information about his health, and that she hasn’t seen Bashara since Friday.

At issue is a question the jury has about the case.

The jury deliberated until about noon today when it had a question for the court. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans sent the jury home, concluding that Bashara, 57, needs to be present for any jury questions at this “critical stage” of the trial. He also would need to be in court for a verdict.

Bashara is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the death of his wife, Jane Bashara, 56, who was found strangled in the back of her Mercedes SUV in January 2012. The prosecution alleges Bashara hired a hitman to kill his wife so that he could be with his mistress, live the BDSM lifestyle, and inherit many of his wife’s assets, including her six-figure 401K.

The hitman, handyman Joseph Gentz, has already confessed to the crime and is serving a maximum 28-year prison sentence for it.

The health of Bob Bashara, who has diabetes, has been an issue several times during the roughly two-month trial. In November, he had a doctor’s appointment; before that, a medical emergency Oct. 29 caused him to collapse. He’d felt pain in his right side and received a cortisone injection, attorneys in the case previously said.

The three-woman, nine-man jury was told to return at 10 a.m. Tuesday to see whether Bashara is available so the question can be answered and the deliberations can move forward. But according to Diallo, that’s not likely to happen.

On Monday, Diallo told the media she agrees with Evans’ decision to wait until Bashara can be there. Asked whether the court could just have jurors work around the question until he’s available, Diallo said it’s appropriate that they were halted.

“Once they have a question you need to answer that question so that they can continue to deliberate,” she said.

Diallo said she didn’t know what was wrong with Bashara or where he was being kept. But he wasn’t in the courthouse holding cell he’s occupied during deliberations, which began Thursday afternoon.

Bashara is accused of ordering handyman Joe Gentz to beat and strangle his wife at the couple’s home. Prosecutors say he wanted to get rid of his wife and focus on BDSM (bondage, discipline and sadomasochism) practices with other women, especially a longtime mistress named Rachel Gillett. He was known as “Master Bob.”

Bashara, who has maintained that he’s innocent, declined to take the stand in the trial. His attorneys have argued he had no motive to kill his wife, who was the breadwinner of the household.

Source:  Robert Allen and Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

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Hostages held in Sydney cafe, forced to hold Islamic flag in window

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – An armed assailant was holding an unknown number of hostages inside a central Sydney cafe on Monday, police said, with local television showing some being forced to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing in the window.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has warned of militant plans to strike Australian targets, said there were indications the hostage situation at the Lindt Cafe was politically motivated.

“This is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people,” Abbott told reporters in Canberra, without providing any information on the unfolding siege.

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its escalating action against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, is on high alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.

Police had not had any direct contact with the hostage taker, said Andrew Scipione, police commissioner for the state of New South Wales.

“We have moved to a footing that would be consistent with a terrorist event,” Scipione told reporters in Sydney.

A Lindt Australia executive said there were about 10 staff working at the cafe, Sky Business television reported. Chief Executive Steve Loane also said there were “probably 30 customers” in the cafe, according to Sky Business, although he stressed to another news outlet that he was guessing.

The hostage drama forced the evacuation of nearby buildings in Sydney’s central business district and sent shockwaves around a country where many people have started to turn their attention to the approaching Christmas festive season.

In September, Australian anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and days later, a teenager in Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife.

EVACUATING BY LADDER

Dozens of heavily armed police surrounded the cafe in Martin Place around mid-morning. The area is home to the Reserve Bank of Australia, commercial banks and close to the New South Wales state parliament.

The cafe was directly opposite a commercial television studio and footage showed several people inside the cafe standing with their hands pressed against the windows.

Pictures showed a black and white flag similar to those used by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria being held up by what appeared to be a staff member and another woman.

A couple of hundred people were being held back by cordons and a police SWAT team and the fire brigade’s hazardous unit were on the scene, a Reuters witness said.

Several hours into the siege, police led about two dozen people out of a building opposite the cafe and through the cordon. Others were evacuated from the building above the cafe by ladder, television pictures showed.

The Reserve Bank of Australia said staff had been locked down inside the building, and were all safe and accounted for.

The nearby U.S. consulate was also evacuated, according to an embassy spokeswoman, along with the Sydney Opera House. Tourists were being let back into the world-famous venue by early afternoon.

BANKS AND SHOPS CLOSE

Major banks closed their offices in the central business district and people were told to avoid the area. Shops in a four block radius were shut.

“If it was up to me, I would storm the building,” said John, a lawyer in his 50s who was evacuated from the building where the cafe was located. “I just feel angry about it.” He declined to give his full name.

Qantas Airways Ltd said planes were avoiding flying over the central business district but were landing as normal.

Traders in currency markets said the hostage news may have contributed to a dip in the Australian dollar, which was already under pressure from global risk aversion as oil prices fell anew. The local currency was pinned at $0.8227, having hit its lowest since mid-2010 last week.

The prime minister of Canada, which suffered an attack on its parliament by a suspected jihadist sympathizer in October, offered his support.

“Canada’s thoughts and prayers are with our Australian friends. #MartinPlace #SydneySiege” Stephen Harper said via social media.

Concerns about an attack in Australia by radical Islamists have been growing for more than a year, with the security agency raising its national terrorism public alert to “high” in September.

Security had recently been stepped up at the nation’s parliament, airports and at large scale public events.

Source:  Matt Siegel Reuters

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Ex-Winnetka teacher accused of molesting third child at camp

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Authorities have filed a third felony charge against former Winnetka teacher Bill Bricker after a woman reported that he molested her as a child on an overnight camping trip in Wyoming in 1968, court records show.

Bricker, 94, who spent decades as a gym teacher and Boy Scout leader in Winnetka, has been fighting extradition to Wyoming after being charged in September with taking “immoral and indecent liberties” with two boys in 1962 and 1985 at a summer camp where he where he worked as a counselor.

Records show a third person has recently told authorities that he fondled her at the camp. The woman reported to authorities Nov. 4 that she recalled Bricker kissing her and fondling her breasts while she was in her sleeping bag during a backpacking trip in 1968 at Grand Teton National Park,according to Wyoming court records.

The woman, who said she was 14 at the time, told officials that “she laid there in ‘a state of shock,’ ” according to the criminal complaint filed in the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial District in Teton County, Wyo.

Since the initial charges were filed, at least 10 other people have told the Tribune or reported to authorities that Bricker also had inappropriate contact with them as children. Many of the claims were said to have occurred during camping trips with Winnetka Boy Scout Troop 18 or at Hubbard Woods School, where Bricker taught from 1949 to 1985. The claims span from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Illinois’ statute of limitations on filing charges has long run out. Wyoming has no statute of limitations on these types of crimes.

While awaiting a decision on whether he will be sent to Wyoming to stand trial, Bricker is confined to his Michigan home, both by the courts and, his lawyer said, by serious illness that has necessitated hospice care.

Michael Lewis, Bricker’s attorney in Michigan, said Wednesday that he was unaware that a third charge had been filed against his client by authorities in Wyoming.

But Lewis said the new charge will likely not affect Wyoming’s extradition request, which has been delayed to allow time for Bricker to be evaluated with a forensic psychiatric exam intended to assess his mental competency.

“I went to see Mr. Bricker this morning, and he seemed weaker and he is still sleeping most of the time,” said Lewis.

Winnetka School District 36 officials released records in October that show that school officials became aware of complaints about Bricker in 1968, but apparently took little action and employed him another 17 years. In the 1970s, an unnamed school official met with Bricker to discuss complaints of excessive “physical contact” with students, including kisses and lap-sitting, according to a district document.

“I reminded Bill that the old adage, ‘Keep your hands off kids’ was really best,” according to the document.

School officials received two more written complaints, in 1993 and 1997, by people indentifying themselves as former students claiming that Bricker, by then retired, had molested them, according to District 36 records. It’s unclear if the letters were written by the same person.

Don Monroe, who retired as superintendent in 1994, said in October that he visited the Cook County state’s attorney’s office shortly after the 1993 complaint but that nothing came of it, in part because the alleged victim did not want to pursue charges. The prosecutor’s office has said it has no record indicating its office ever investigated Bricker.

Wyoming officials began their investigation in February, after receiving a packet of information from the Boy Scouts of America that included allegations that Bricker had molested “multiple victims” in the late 1960s and early 1970s at the Wyoming camp, according to court records.

Source: Grand Traverse County Sheriff/AP Photo/ Lisa Black and Karen Ann Cullotta Chicago Tribune

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Teen Guilty Of Girl’s ‘Deal With Devil’ Murder

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A teenager has been found guilty of killing a 15-year-old girl and carving an upside-down crucifix on her stomach in a gruesome murder motivated by an occult ritual.

Jose E Reyes, 18, was convicted of capital murder in the death of classmate Corriann Cervantes on 4 February in Houston, Texas.

She was found mutilated in a vacant apartment.

Reyes told a friend he had sold his soul to the devil, and if they killed Corriann, his friend could sell his soul as well.

His 16-year-old alleged accomplice, who has not been identified because of his age, must also stand trial.

Reyes and the other suspect convinced Corriann to go with them to an abandoned apartment after a party, police said.

She was later found strangled with a belt, stabbed in the face with a screwdriver and bludgeoned with the porcelain lid of a toilet tank.

Prosecutors read to jurors one of Reyes’ letters from jail in which he said the devil was watching him during the killing.

“He was standing there, watching me and Victor,” the teen wrote. “It’s all good. It’s what the Devil asked for.”

The Houston Chronicle reports that after the verdict was read, Coriann’s aunt gave a victim-impact statement in which she told Reyes he was “morally, spiritually dead”.

Source: Sky News

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