Home » Archives by category » National News (Page 2)

Why Cases Like Ferguson Are Hard for Feds to Prosecute

Why Cases Like Ferguson Are Hard for Feds to Prosecute

iStock/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- As soon as the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, announces its decision over whether to charge Police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting teenager Michael Brown, the public will almost certainly turn to the Justice Department and say: Your move, Mr. Attorney General.U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has vowed a "fair" and "thorough" investigation into the matter. But when pressed by ABC News in August, Holder seemed to acknowledge federal charges against Wilson are hardly guaranteed.

What are the hurdles to bring civil rights charges against a police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager? Here are the top four challenges facing federal prosecutors, according to many of those who've prosecuted such cases:1. "The law"Under federal law, prosecutors need to prove two things: (1) it was "unreasonable" for Wilson to believe Brown posed a threat to him or the public, and (2) Wilson "willfully" deprived Brown of his constitutional rights."It's hard enough to prove willfulness to a jury when an officer beats a handcuffed suspect," said Rachel Harmon, a former Justice Department official who prosecuted several cases of excessive force by police. "It is much more difficult still when an officer uses force in an ongoing encounter with an unrestrained … suspect, even if that person is unarmed."Reasonableness comes "from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight," a federal judge told jurors in a 2010 case in New Orleans that ultimately acquitted an officer who fatally shot an unarmed man.That analysis must also consider "that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving," U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said then.Federal investigators will also be taking a close look at Wilson's background and any personal views that could have impacted his decision-making when he encountered Brown.In Ferguson, "even if [Wilson] was wrong about the amount of force that was necessary, if it was reasonable given all of what he was confronting at the time, then he can't be charged," said William Yeomans, who spent 26 years prosecuting civil rights cases at the Justice Department.

2. "Issues of proof"In cases of excessive force, "You may have issues of proof," and there are "certain limitations," the current federal prosecutor nominated to replace Holder said more than a decade ago."The real problem, from my perspective and the Justice Department's perspective, is that you are coming into an event after it has already occurred," Loretta Lynch said at a Fordham Law School roundtable in 2000, during her first stint as U.S. Attorney out of Brooklyn, N.Y.So prosecutors must often rely on eyewitness accounts. But such testimony "can be particularly problematic," Yeomans said, because eyewitnesses regularly have "very different" and inaccurate "pictures of what went on" during a chaotic incident.It's "absolutely" an issue in the Ferguson case, he said.In fact, at least one witness in Ferguson said Brown was shot "with his arms up in the air." But police claimed Brown was shot in the wake of a struggle for Wilson's gun and only after Brown started advancing toward Wilson.Because the police claim is "a plausible scenario," it's "hard for a jury to think about sending Officer Wilson to jail," Yeomans said.Brown family attorney Ben Crump, however, said, "People get arrested with far less evidence," insisting eyewitness testimony and "physical evidence" in the Ferguson case support charges against Wilson.3. "Strong presumption in favor of law enforcement""There is a strong presumption in favor of law enforcement" when deciding whether to charge a police officer, Yeomans said. "And it is a risky business to be too proactive in second-guessing their instantaneous choices."Both the law and juries give officers a lot of so-called "leeway" in that regard."Juries will give the police officers a significant benefit of the doubt," said Michael Magner, a former assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute the 2010 case in New Orleans.The lawyer for the Brown family, Benjamim Crump, said the high bar for indicting cops is even more pronounced at the local grand jury level."When you got the local prosecutor sitting in judgment of the local police, they normally don't indict," Crump told ABC News. The justice system "gives all the favor to the police officers and does nothing for the citizens."4. "Selective leaking" and "public opinion"Holder has condemned the "selective leak" of certain information in the case, saying it is "harmful to the process."

Yeomans said the release of case information outside a grand jury room can have an impact on what happens inside the room.Yeomans took particular issue with the official release of a video showing someone identified as Brown allegedly stealing cigars from a convenience store minutes before the fatal encounter with Wilson.At the time, police insisted they "had to release" the video in the interest of transparency and because they received too many "freedom of information requests" from news outlets.Still, many leaks – such as details of secret witness interviews and autopsy reports – have been favorable to Wilson, and that "tends to affect the way that grand jurors approach the situation," Yeomans said.So what's next if federal charges don't happen?In addition to its criminal investigation of Wilson, the Justice Department has launched a separate civil probe into the entire Ferguson police department, trying to determine whether officers routinely engage in a "pattern or practice" of unlawful and discriminatory policing.Officers there allegedly have been more likely to stop and arrest a black driver than a white driver.Depending on what federal investigators conclude and how city officials respond, a federal court could demand Ferguson police make sweeping changes.Ferguson Mayor James Knowles told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his city has "nothing to hide" and will cooperate with the federal investigation, hoping to restore confidence in the police force."The real goal" of such probes "is to effect some sort of systemic change that will prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place," Lynch said in 2000 – long before much of the nation had even heard of Ferguson.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Behavior of Florida State University Shooter Had Alarmed Ex-GirlFriend

Behavior of Florida State University Shooter Had Alarmed Ex-GirlFriend

iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The man who shot three people at a Florida college early Thursday morning had been a success story -- a foster child who succeeded in becoming a lawyer -- but had recently deteriorated to the point where his ex-girlfriend called police saying he was acting erratically and she feared for his life.Myron May, 31, has been identified as the shooter who opened fire at the Florida State University library in Tallahassee before he was shot and killed by police.Police have no motive for May's rampage at the library, other than to say that May was "in a state of crisis."May was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1983 and moved to Florida as a teen, Tallahassee Police Department Police Chief Michael DeLeo said Thursday.Abigail and David Taunton told ABC News that he stayed with them in their foster home from the age of 13. They described him as being smart, friendly with their children and a cross country runner.He was awarded scholarships to school, they said, and he graduated from FSU in 2005. He went on to study law at Texas Tech Law School in 2009 and practiced law in both Texas and New Mexico.The Las Cruces District Attorney's office in Las Cruces, New Mexico, confirmed to ABC News that he had recently resigned from the office.There were signs of trouble in Las Cruces in two police reports this fall, one for suspicious circumstances and another for harassment."He advised me that over the past two weeks he was almost certain that there was [a] camera somewhere located in the interior of his residence," a September police report stated. "He believes he was being watched and observed. He stated that he can constantly hear voices coming through the walls specifically talking about actions he was doing."In October, police were called to his the home of his ex-girlfriend Danielle Nixon and she reported an incident where he had handed her a piece of his car that he claimed was a camera that police had put in his vehicle."According to [the woman], Myron has recently developed a severe mental disorder. Myron believes that the police are after him and are bugging his phone and car as well as placing cameras in his home and car," the police report stated.The woman said that she did not feel she needed a protective order against him, and she said that their 15 month relationship had ended as his mental disorder -- which she said was ADHD and was treated with medication -- had been worsening in recent weeks, leading to him quitting his job at the district attorney's office.She also told police that May had been taken to the Mesilla Valley Hospital for a mental health evaluation in late September.May's foster parents told ABC News that he returned to their home, two hours' drive from Tallahassee, unannounced three weeks ago and asked to stay with them. He even joined them on their annual fishing trip.David Taunton said that May did not appear to have any mental issues, saying that he was a happy, helpful person who wanted to come back to his hometown.In spite of that description, the last time the Taunton's heard from him was on Friday. When Abigail Taunton texted him at some point in the last two days and he responded: "I'm alright - having spiritual warfare."

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Florida State University Gunman Was Lawyer and Former Student

Florida State University Gunman Was Lawyer and Former Student

Brendan Sonnone/ Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The gunman who wounded three people at the Florida State University school library early on Thursday was a lawyer who had graduated from FSU, law enforcement said on Thursday.The alleged gunman was identified as Myron May, sources said.The gunman opened fire in FSU's Strozier Library, which was packed with students studying for end of term finals.An officer responding to the scene fatally wounded the suspected gunman after he fired at police, Tallahassee Police Department public information officer David Northway said at an early morning press conference.Two of the victims were taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, with one listed in critical condition, the other in stable condition. The third victim received a graze wound, police said.The university said on its Twitter account that it would remain open on Thursday, but it would not hold classes.The university sent an emergency alert to students, classifying the incident as a "dangerous situation" and telling students to seek shelter.University President John Thrasher released a statement following Thursday morning's shooting."The Florida State University community is extremely saddened by the shootings that took place early this morning at Strozier Library, in the very heart of campus, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all those who have been affected," Thrasher said in the statement."The three students who have been injured are our highest priority followed by the needs of our greater university community. We will do everything possible to assist with their recovery," he added.The shooting was an "isolated incident," Thrasher said.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

What Will Happen to Snow Across US After Warmer Weekend

What Will Happen to Snow Across US After Warmer Weekend

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many parts of the country have been pounded with snow and frigid cold this week, but don't worry: warmer weather is on the way.So what happens to all that snow? After another snowfall forecast for Thursday afternoon, some places near Buffalo, New York, could see up to nine feet of snow in total. That could lead to minor flooding when the snow starts to melt, made worse because of snow covering drains, according to ABC News weather experts.Ten inches of snow converts to about one inch of liquid water when it all melts. But what's slamming Buffalo isn't regular snow -- it's lake-effect snow, which is lighter and fluffier, and contains less water. So it would take between 20 and 30 inches of lake-effect snow for about one inch of liquid water.That's only if all of the snow melts, which experts don't expect will happen. By Sunday, the country warms up: afternoon temperatures will hit 51 degrees in New York, 81 degrees in Orlando, Florida, 50 degrees in Chicago and 67 degrees in Atlanta.But colder weather returns on Tuesday, and only part of the snow will have melted by then.Rain is also expected in the Buffalo area early next week, which could add to any flooding and also put extra pressure on rooftops already covered in snow.Some residents in upstate New York have been snowed in at home for more than two days -- or, even worse, stuck in their cars or at work. A 132-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway remains closed on Thursday as emergency workers furiously try to clear the snow.Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said on Wednesday that more than 5,000 tons of snow has already been removed from south Buffalo.And Buffalo Bills fans are also hard at work trying to shovel out the stadium in time for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. The team said they will need to clear 220,000 tons of snow in order for the game to happen. The Bills are paying fans $10 per hour to help shovel, plus free game tickets.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Florida State University Student’s Books Saved His Life

Florida State University Student’s Books Saved His Life

Jason Derfuss(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- A student who was leaving the Florida State University library just as a shooter opened fire realized later that he had been the gunman's first target.Jason Derfuss, an FSU student, posted photos online showing a bullet that went through his backpack and was stopped only by a couple of books that he had just checked out for a research project."I didn't know this at the time, but the Shooter targeted me first," Derfuss wrote on his Facebook profile page. "The shot I heard behind me I did not feel, nor did it hit me at all. He was about 5 feet from me, but he hit my books. Books one minute earlier I had checked out of the library, books that should not have stopped the bullet. But they did."Derfuss, who identifies himself as the vice president of a media production company on his Twitter account, shared a series of photos of the damage that the bullet did to two books -- one titled Great Medieval Thinkers and the other with its title obscured."I learned this about 3 hours after it happened, I never thought to check my bag. I assumed I wasn't a target, I assumed I was fine. The truth is I was almost killed tonight and God intervened," he said.A Reddit user with the handle 'thejasond123' who posted the same photos wrote a similar account of the incident and added that he went to the police station and gave them his statement after discovering the bullet in his bag once he arrived home.Police who rushed to the library fatally shot the suspect but not until three students were injured. All three of the victims are expected to survive.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Beware of a Holiday Scam that Tricks You with a $100 Bill

Beware of a Holiday Scam that Tricks You with a $100 Bill

WJLA(WASHINGTON) -- Authorities in Maryland have warned the public about a potential holiday scam that involves the temptation of a $100 bill left on a car windshield.The simple scheme works like this: Drivers walk to their parked cars and, after they get in the vehicle,  notice a $100 bill in the windshield. The driver exits the car with the door open to retrieve it, only to have a thief steal the vehicle.Karen Straughn, Maryland Assistant Attorney General – Consumer Protection, wants the public to be aware of it, as reported by ABC News affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. Straughn said an unknown resident, during a public information safety session in Baltimore County, informed her of one incident, but Straughn said she has not seen a police report about it."But because it’s something of a frightening nature, if this happens to someone, we hope they will take the proper precautions," Straughn told ABC News.The Baltimore County Police Department’s auto theft task force told ABC News that while it has not seen the $100 bill scam at this time, “We have seen incidents where auto thieves will bump the back of someone's car in traffic. When everyone gets out of their cars, a thief will jump in the victim's car and drive off.” There are a couple of other scams involving drivers in parking lots that Straughn wants the public to be aware."With the fact that the holidays are coming up and more shopping, we believe this is something that could occur in this period of time," she said.According to Straughn, other schemes involve scammers approaching a car owner in a parking lot, asking if they can help repair a vehicle's "ding or dent" for an amount such as $200.After the scammer completes the job, one of two things can occur: The owner will drive away and realize days later the shoddy job, such as peeling paint."They drive away and you can’t catch them," Straughn said. "This is something that’s more common in our [suburban] area, particularly with holiday shopping."In other cases, the scammer will dispute the agreed amount and demand a larger sum, such as $2,000."One scammer went as far as to drive the individual to the bank," she said, adding the incident was reported to the police and the thief was caught.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

School Defends Principal in Controversial ‘Gang Sign’ Photo

School Defends Principal in Controversial ‘Gang Sign’ Photo

WRIC(LAWRENCEVILLE, Va.) -- A Virginia high school is batting down accusations that its principal is flashing gang signs in a recent photo with students.The photo shows Brunswick High School principal Warren Bell making hand gestures, next to five students, all of whom are also gesturing with their hands.Bell wasn't making any inappropriate signs, and was actually trying to get the students, who were making a commotion in the restroom by taking the photos, to stop, Superintendent Dora Wynn said in a statement to ABC News."When the principal saw that the students were posing and making inappropriate gestures, he motioned for the students to stop what they were doing," Wynn said in the statement. "A student snapped a picture just as the principal was gesturing for the students to stop. That picture is construed by some as showing the principal was engaging in inappropriate conduct when, in reality, he was attempting to stop the students from continuing their inappropriate behavior."The photo has been circulating online, the school said. It's unclear where it came from.Some parents told ABC News affiliate WRIC-TV in Richmond they believe the principal showed poor judgment."I am really appalled," Shirley Penn, whose daughter attends the school, told the station. "Seeing is believing. He is in the picture and from what I can make out, he's making signs."Geonni Stockton, one of the students in the controversial photo, told WRIC the students didn't know the principal was in the photo until after it was taken. Stockton doesn't believe the principal meant any harm."We ain't no gang," he told the station. "We were just posing for the picture. It surprised me how much people saw it, how people took it, much views it got and stuff, how many people took it the wrong way."

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Coal King Don Blankenship to Appear in Court

Coal King Don Blankenship to Appear in Court

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Coal boss Don Blankenship is set to make his first appearance in court Thursday as a defendant facing a raft of charges stemming from the 2010 coal mine blast that took 29 lives.Once a larger-than-life figure in Appalachia, whose iron-fisted leadership of a giant coal conglomerate made him both famous and feared, Blankenship now faces up to 31 years in prison on federal charges of conspiracy, fraud and making false statements.A federal grand jury returned the indictment against Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, last week alleging that leading up to the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010, Blankenship took short cuts on safety in order to maximize profits, including failing to properly ventilate the mine. Investigators believe a buildup of methane and coal dust caused the deadly blast.The 43-page indictment alleges that for years prior to the explosion, Blankenship “conspired to commit and cause routine, willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards” at the mine and “was part of a conspiracy to impede and hinder federal mine safety officials from carrying out their duties at Upper Big Branch by providing advance warning of federal mine safety inspection activities, so their underground operations could conceal and cover up safety violations that they routinely committed.”Prosecutors also allege he made false statements about safety practices to the Securities and Exchange Commission.The judge handling Blankenship’s case recently imposed a strict gag order, according to local reports, purportedly in hopes of protecting a potential jury pool from bias.The indictment came just months after Blankenship sat down with ABC News in April and said he was despised because he “does the right thing,” denying that he ever cut corners on safety matters. When asked if he believed he would be indicted, Blankenship chuckled and said, “No.”Shortly before the interview, a federal safety report on the Upper Big Branch disaster had concluded, “If basic safety measures had been in place...there would have been no loss of life at UBB [the Upper Big Branch mine].”Blankenship countered that the real fault rested with the federal mine safety officials he has now been accused of trying to deceive.“You know, you can't just take the side of the government, the government's people too,” he told ABC News. “They have their own failings and their own shortcomings. We need to get to the bottom of these safety issues and truly protect coal miners, rather than seeing if we can blacken someone's reputation or hurt somebody.”The consensus among the families of the victims, and of West Virginia’s political leaders, is that Blankenship bears the ultimate responsibility for America’s worst mining disaster since 1970.A large group of relatives of those killed in the mine told ABC News earlier this year that they were waiting patiently for their day in court. Many rallied outside the courthouse when his indictment was announced.“I believe that Don has blood on his hands and I believe that justice will be done. I’ve got to believe that,” said Sen. Joe Machin, D-W.Va., in an interview.The 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch may have cost Blankenship control of his company -- Massey was ultimately bought by Alpha Natural Resources in 2011, six months after Blankenship stepped down as CEO.In April of this year, as federal officials began to focus on his role in the Upper Big Branch explosion after he refused to participate in the official state and federal investigations, Blankenship embarked on a public relations offensive to promote a 50-minute film called Never Again which offered what he said was proof that the explosion was the result of an unexpected surge of natural gas into the mine shaft -- not the result of safety deficiencies.“No one ever did more for improving or trying to improve safety,” Blankenship told ABC News. He said he declined to meet with investigators because he did not believe they would treat him fairly.Families of the victims told ABC News they considered the movie a public relations stunt aimed at influencing potential jurors who would one day hear the case against him.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Buffalo, NY, Buried in Snow, Could Get Another Three Feet Thursday

Buffalo, NY, Buried in Snow, Could Get Another Three Feet Thursday

iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- Buffalo, New York, generally averages about eight feet of snow every winter. By the end of the day Thursday, it could eclipse that mark in just three days. And winter is still a month off.Governor Andrew Cuomo got a first-hand look at all the white stuff that has paralyzed much of the city due to the much talked about lake effect, which causes snow to come down faster, thicker and harder than in other areas due to cold air picking up moisture from Lake Erie.Cuomo admitted, "This is a historic event. When all is said and done, this snowstorm will break all sorts of records, and that's saying something in Buffalo.”

Meanwhile, the governor has called in more than 200 National Guardsmen to remove snow, direct traffic and rescue the hundreds of stranded people from area highways.Meteorologists are predicting that Buffalo, which got five feet Tuesday, could get at least another three feet Thursday in a second round of snowfall.To get an idea of how much of a burden the snow has become, it's estimated that the average Buffalonian has to shove 25 tons of it just to get out of their driveway.Meanwhile, it's uncertain whether the Buffalo Bills' game with the New York Jets can be played Sunday since the Bills' stadium is already buried under 220,000 tons of snow with more is forecast for Thursday. The Bills are offering local residents $10 an hour and tickets to a future game in exchange for helping shovel snow.On a more somber note, seven snow-related deaths have occurred in Western New York, some from people suffering heart attacks while shoveling.

More ABC US news | ABC World News

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Three Wounded, Suspected Gunman Dead After Shooting on FSU Campus

Three Wounded, Suspected Gunman Dead After Shooting on FSU CampusiStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Three students were wounded in a shooting on Florida State University's campus in Tallahassee, police said, and the suspected gunman was shot and killed by officers.The shooting happened early Thursday morning at...

WATCH: Man Holding Toddler Allegedly Steals Box of Toys

WATCH: Man Holding Toddler Allegedly Steals Box of Toys

iStock/Thinkstock(UPPER DARBY, Pa.) -- As authorities in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, search for a man captured on a home surveillance camera carrying a toddler in his arms as he allegedly steals a package off someone’s porch, consumers are being reminded about the risks of shipping packages this holiday season.

“The thing that bothers me about this one is the little baby,” Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood told ABC News affiliate WPVI about the surveillance tape. “He never lets go and uses the baby as a cover to steal.”

In the video released Tuesday, a UPS driver can be seen knocking on the neighbor’s door and then leaving the package on the porch, as instructed by the homeowner. The box reportedly was full of toys for the holiday.

Minutes later, after the UPS driver leaves, the man holding a toddler in one arm walks up to the porch and allegedly steals the box.

More ABC US news | ABC World News

Chitwood said the delivery drivers were just doing their jobs.

“They knock on the door. Nobody’s home. They leave the package,” he said. “These bums are perusing the neighborhood and…they follow the trucks.”

With the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx expected to deliver nearly 1.3 billion packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year — 10 percent more than last year — consumers should be on alert, experts say.

Delivery companies told ABC News that they trained their drivers to be highly alert to possible thieves but police said consumers should be on alert too.

Police said home security cameras like the ones in Upper Darby have also been key in helping the authorities identify alleged thieves.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ferguson School District Poised to Get Students Off the Streets

Ferguson School District Poised to Get Students Off the Streets

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Schools in Ferguson, Missouri, released plans on Wednesday to ensure that students are off the streets - possibly including closing schools - ahead of the grand jury verdict in the shooting of teenager Michael Brown.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District said that whenever a decision is handed down, schools could close early or close for the day if the decision is released during a school day. The decision would affect schools beyond Ferguson and would include the entire district and its 23 schools, the majority of which are elementary schools.

They also noted that seven churches have agreed to work with the school district in providing free breakfast and lunches for students if the schools are closed.

"First, we will take actions necessary to ensure the safety of our students and staff, both at school and on their way home from school. Second, activity in the area that causes logistical or operational concerns may necessitate a change in our school schedule," Acting Superintendent Lawrence Larrew wrote in the statement.

The statement does not mention how long the change in schedule is expected to last, whether it be just the day of the announcement or multiple days after.

If the decision comes at night, the schools could continue with their normal schedules, the statement said.

One fact not mentioned in the note was that school officials are expected to have a heads-up for when the announcement will be made.

The Hazelton School district, which lies directly north of the Ferguson-Florissant district, posted a letter to parents last week saying that the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office previously told educators that if the decision is made on a weekend, school superintendents will be notified 24 hours prior to the information being released to the media, and if it comes during the week, school districts will be given three hours of advance notice.

"The three-hour window will allow us enough time to transport students home safely," the letter states, though they do not specifically note if they will follow the same protocols of Ferguson-Florissant schools.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Al Sharpton on ‘High Alert’ About Ferguson Decision

Al Sharpton on ‘High Alert’ About Ferguson Decision

Win McNamee/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Al Sharpton said on Wednesday that he is "on high alert" for the grand jury decision in the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.Sharpton said that his civil rights group, the National Action Network, have been planning for "vigils and non-violent demonstrations" when the Ferguson grand jury hands down its ruling, which is expected to come any day."I have pledged to the mother and father of Michael Brown that I will be there with them when the decision is announced," Sharpton said at a press conference Wednesday.Sharpton said he is also waiting for a grand jury ruling on the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died while being held in a choke hold by a New York City police officer. That incident was caught on videotape.He said both grand juries appear to be going beyond the usual protocol of hearing enough evidence to determine whether there should be a trial."It is very suspect to us that the grand juries in both cases appear to be improperly expanded to where it is about to prove or disprove the accused rather than seeing if there is probable cause to go to trial," Sharpton said."That is not the proper use" of a grand jury, he said. Such tribunals are generally used to deem whether or not there is enough probable cause for a criminal case, while guilt or innocence should not be their focus.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Basketball Team Spent Day Stranded on Bus in Snowstorm

Basketball Team Spent Day Stranded on Bus in Snowstorm

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A women's basketball team stranded on a bus for more than a day during a massive snowstorm in upstate New York turned to social media to keep morale up, and to keep fans posted.

The Niagara University team was returning from a game in Pittsburgh late Monday when they got stuck on the New York State Thruway near Buffalo, as several feet of snow pounded the area. Things started to get bad Tuesday around 2 a.m., and the bus had to stop, Niagara players and coaches said.Five hours later, players tweeted that they were still stuck:

Omg we got on this bus around 11 o'clock we were suppose to get home in 3 hrs.. It is 7:03 am and still on the bus.. 😩😩😢😭 I just wanna sleep

— Focused. (@sylvoslice24) November 18, 2014

But players tried to make the most of the situation:

Sleepover with the team on a bus in a blizzard!!! #StrandedInTheSnow

— Emily Granruth (@emilygranruth) November 18, 2014

There was even a hashtag: #NUWBBstrandedonabus.After nearly an entire day of being stranded, snacks showed up:

Thanks to these Niagara Falls citizens/first responders that brought us drinks & snacks! pic.twitter.com/3x2xiLTguh

— Corinne Jones (@NUCoachJones) November 19, 2014

A plow later arrived. Players tweeted that they were relieved and excited to see their ordeal moving towards an end:

Thank you god !!! pic.twitter.com/CdBx93ooLx

— #Grind2Shine (@_TC3__) November 19, 2014

And finally, help came:

Thank you for rescuing us NY state police! #onestepclosertohome #NUWBBstrandedonbus pic.twitter.com/7Bn14dvJ43

— Corinne Jones (@NUCoachJones) November 19, 2014

Wednesday around 6 a.m., players announced they were safe and headed home:

On our way back to campus now! pic.twitter.com/urg4bYAhiD

— NiagaraWBB (@NiagaraWBB) November 19, 2014

 Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

NJ Attorney General Launches Separate Probe into Murder of CEO, Wife

NJ Attorney General Launches Separate Probe into Murder of CEO, Wife

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New Jersey’s attorney general is conducting his own shadow investigation into the shocking September deaths of a politically connected hospital CEO and his wife, ABC News has learned.Word of the separate probe came late Tuesday in the wake of revelations that John and Joyce Sheridan had both been stabbed multiple times before their home was torched on Sept. 28.Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said one person briefed on the case has deployed a team from the State Police and state Division of Criminal Justice that is “providing a fresh set of eyes, additional manpower and expertise. This is a very complex investigation.”The AG’s spokesman, Paul Loriquet, declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation.John Sheridan, a former state transportation commissioner, was a pillar of the New Jersey Republican establishment, having served as an adviser to every GOP governor in recent memory, including the current holder of the post, Chris Christie.When he died, Sheridan, 72, was the president and CEO of Cooper Health System, the leading hospital operator in South Jersey.Deemed an arson in the first days of the probe, the blaze was confined to the master bedroom in the couple’s upscale home in Montgomery Township, about 40 miles southwest of Newark.Originally, local authorities acted as though it were not complex at all. Officials suggested repeatedly the deaths were the result of an open-and-shut murder-homicide and that the public should have no concern at all.On Oct. 2, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Jack Bennett told ABC News: “At this point, based upon facts and circumstances learned through this investigation, we are quite confident that there exists no threat to either the immediate neighborhood or to the local community.”The prosecutor also said investigators had quickly ruled out the couple’s four sons, though he refused to explain that determination.Then, officials went silent. Dozens of interviews yielded no information that might confirm the possibility of a murder-suicide and no other evidence was found to point detectives in that direction. The couple’s sons hired renowned pathologist Michael Baden to conduct his own investigation, though Baden has not released those results.Late Tuesday, ABC News confirmed that John and Joyce Sheridan, 69, were stabbed multiple times with at least three different weapons prior to the fire being set and that only two of those weapons have been retrieved. The clear indication from the missing weapon is that a third party could have committed the crime and then left with key evidence.The nature of the wounds to both Sheridans also appears ragged and unplanned and, when John Sheridan was found, he was lying beneath a large armoire that had been doused with gasoline. Those facts, again, suggest to investigators that someone besides either victim was involved.The prosecutor’s office -- which has been criticized for its refusal to discuss the case -- again did not reply to questions from ABC News.The Sheridans’ four sons issued a statement, saying "no one wants answers about our parents’ deaths more than us. Real answers will only come after a full and thorough investigation. ...We are committed to getting to the truth and that means we will not comment while the investigation is ongoing."

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

What It’s Like to Be Trapped by a Wall of Snow in Buffalo Storm

What It’s Like to Be Trapped by a Wall of Snow in Buffalo Storm

iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- People in the Buffalo, New York, area have been snowed in for the second straight day, and some are even trapped at stores or jobs because of a sudden huge snowstorm.And it isn't over. More snow is expected to pound upstate New York on Wednesday, as officials frantically try to clear massive truckloads of snow from the area.Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Wednesday that more than 5,000 tons of snow have already been removed from south Buffalo.Meanwhile, residents are posting photos of the snow piling up outside their car or home windows.Patti Mahaney said she's stranded at home for the second day in a row and there's more than four feet of snow in the parking lot of her apartment building, near the stadium where the Buffalo Bills play.

 

#BuffaloSnow #buffalostorm We have almost 4 feet of snow in parking lot of Regency Court Apts in O.Park & NOT 1 PLOW! pic.twitter.com/PFP729SQQC

— Patti Mahaney (@spikezezel2) November 19, 2014

 

And there are plenty of snow doors:

 

Many #snovember pics with snow halfway up open door. First one all the way to top: More pics: http://t.co/mr7ZK7lp3a pic.twitter.com/IJNe3UCFHU

— 7 Eyewitness News (@WKBW) November 19, 2014

 

Others not so lucky to be stranded at home got stuck at stores, restaurants or at work on Tuesday.

 

So this is how I'm spending my night. On the floor of a Tim Horton's. You can see the snow piled up outside... pic.twitter.com/2b91u4uLL6

— Wolfvember Advocate (@Faustwolf) November 19, 2014

 

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

US Faces Epidemic of Phony Debt Collectors: Prosecutor

US Faces Epidemic of Phony Debt Collectors: Prosecutor

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United States is facing an epidemic of unscrupulous debt collectors who pose as law enforcement, threatening their victims with jail time unless they pay bills for things they never bought, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Tuesday as he announced the arrests of seven people who worked for a Georgia-based company.A criminal complaint was filed Tuesday against employees at Williams Scott & Associates LLC, based in Norcross, Georgia. The alleged thieves posed as debt collectors and local law enforcement, conning 6,000 people of out more than $4 million in recent years, authorities said.Victims were tricked into believing they’d committed a crime such as fraud then bullied into paying up bogus debts or going to jail, authorities said.“I don’t care if you’re nine months pregnant, I have a job to do here,” a phony collector said on one of the calls, which was recorded.In another recorded call, a person was threatened with legal backlash. “I will have no choice but to forward it to Los Angeles County. However, Los Angeles County will issue you a warrant for your arrest,” a recorded caller said.Experts warned that more fraudsters are on the loose and that federal authorities are cracking down.“There are lots of companies that do this and victimized not just 6,000 people, but I think tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people all over the country,” Bharara said.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Utah Man Accused of Kidnapping 5-Year-Old Girl from Bedroom Faces Parents

Utah Man Accused of Kidnapping 5-Year-Old Girl from Bedroom Faces Parents

iStock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) — The man accused of kidnapping a 5-year-old Utah girl from her bedroom made his first appearance in court Tuesday, facing off with the parents who say they stopped the alleged abduction attempt.Troy Morley, 48, found himself face-to-face with Aaron and Stephanie Edson, his hands and feet in shackles. Morley is accused of taking their daughter from her bedroom Nov. 7.Stephanie Holladay Edson credits intuition with waking up the couple.“I knew something was wrong,” she told ABC News in an exclusive interview days after the incident. “And I yelled to Aaron, I said, ‘She’s outside.’”Aaron Edson said he ran outside to find his stepdaughter being carried away.“I said, ‘Really, I want to help you, but she’s got to stay,’” Edson told ABC News. “And I just walked up to him and held out my arms and he just handed her over.”Police arrested Morley after a neighbor said she found him hiding in her house, allegedly telling her, “I’m in trouble. I’m bad.”Newly released charging papers also state that he admitted to going inside the home and asking the girl to “come with him.”The family is still shaken by the incident. “We currently feel that moving from our home may be the only way we can begin to heal,” the family said.Morley, who was officially notified in court Tuesday of the charges including felony child kidnapping, has yet to enter a plea.Roger Kraft, Morley’s attorney, said the one-time aerospace worker, who has no apparent serious criminal history, might not be fit to stand trial on kidnapping charges.“It is likely there might be a petition filed to determine the competency of Troy and whether he can participate in this trial,” Kraft said, “but it is early on in the case. I don’t know.”

More ABC US news | ABC World News

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Police Officers Not Required to Disclose When Recording with New Body Cams

Police Officers Not Required to Disclose When Recording with New Body Cams

ABC News(NEW YORK) — In Celina, Texas, dash-cam footage taken from the hood of a police cruiser seems to show an arrest gone horribly wrong. The officer orders the suspect to “put your hands behind your back,” then suddenly seems to tackle him and wrestle him to the ground face down.The officer’s reaction escalates for no obvious reason, at least from the dash cam perspective.The footage taken from the tiny body camera the officer was wearing that day tells an entirely different story.From the body camera view, the footage shows the suspect compliant at first. Then he appears to sucker punch the officer, provoking the tackle. The dash-cam footage doesn't show the punch, just the sudden overpowering response.Two cameras. Same scene. Two very different versions of events.Camera footage, especially from citizen cell phones, has shined a harsh spotlight on police tactics, making for some uncomfortable questions for police in recent years.This past July, a Staten Island man named Eric Garner was killed when an officer held him in a choke hold for selling illegal cigarettes. A bystander’s cell phone captured Garner repeatedly screaming, “I can’t breathe,” before he died.Sometimes there is no footage to prove what happened either way. That’s part of the issue in Ferguson, Missouri, where police have been hard pressed to refute allegations that Officer Darren Wilson used excessive force when he shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.Was Brown trying to surrender with his hands in the air, as some eyewitnesses say, or did Brown attack Wilson, justifying the use of deadly force? It’s impossible to know because there’s no firsthand video of the scene.A grand jury is wrestling with those questions now and the Missouri governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation that the outcome of the jury’s decision could spark violence.The desire to have clear evidence of what takes place in an encounter between law enforcement and the general public is why police departments across the country are now investing in body cameras.The Los Angeles Police Department has started a pilot program with body camera devices, which are about the size of a pack of cigarettes and worn, like a police radio, on the officer’s shirtfront.The LAPD is still haunted by one of the most notorious police beatings ever caught on camera, the assault on Rodney King, which resulted in ferocious riots more than 20 years ago. It’s a big reason why LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who wears his body camera on his chest, is eager for his department to embrace this technology.He believes in a few more years, body cameras will be standard issue for police officers.“In a couple of decades...every public safety employee, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, everybody will have them,” he said. “I think it improves behavior on both sides of the camera, which is our goal.”While having an incident caught on camera has its obvious benefits, Peter Bibring, the director of police practices for the ACLU, said having police officers wear body cameras also raises concerns about privacy.“People behave better. Officers are less likely to initiate uses of force and apparently to initiate conduct that might draw up complaints if they’re wearing body cameras,” Bibring said. “But we do think that they’re privacy concerns that need to be addressed through strong policies...if you don’t have strict policies in place to prevent videos from getting out, they will get out.”For instance, could a police officer pull over a celebrity and then sell the footage from their body camera to the media? Beck said such actions would be a “violation of our policy because that’s not the intent” But Bibring said it was a concern.Another issue is police don’t have to say they are filming before they start recording.Case in point when ABC’s Nightline went on a ride-along with the LAPD while they were testing their new body cameras and police responded to a traffic accident at an intersection. An officer spoke to witnesses and the two people involved in the accident with his camera rolling, but didn't mention he was filming. At the time, one of the people involved in the accident denied he had run a red light.After that person gave his report of the accident to police, Nightline told him the officer had been recording him the whole time. When asked if that bothered him, the man said, “It bothers me in the sense that I didn’t realize I ran a red light. But I’m also a human being, and I know that kind of stuff jumps out and people say it. I don’t remember running a red light.”“It’s hard to change your story when it’s all captured on video,” said Deputy Joel Anzuras, who is part of the LAPD’s body camera pilot program. “So I feel it’s a valuable tool.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Biting Cold All over US and Record Snowfalls Too

Biting Cold All over US and Record Snowfalls Too

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The official start of winter is still more than a month away but every state in the nation registered below freezing temperatures Tuesday.That includes Hawaii's highest volcanoes, which is not related to the arctic air mass that has enveloped the lower 48.The same arctic air in the Gulf Coast and the Northeast produced temperatures as low as 20 degrees below average.Meanwhile, half the United States is already covered in snow with parts of Western New York reporting more than six feet of accumulation Tuesday due to the lake effect that struck areas of south Buffalo, Lancaster and West Seneca.The 76 inches of snow in some Buffalo suburbs was the most ever recorded in a 24-hour period anywhere in the U.S. The National Guard was also activated while a 100-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway was closed.

Local authorities also reported six storm-related deaths in Western New York Tuesday. Three people suffered heart attacks from shoveling, as a county highway employee died while snow blowing in the area. Another person was killed trying to push a car out of the snow, and a sixth death occurred when a person became pinned between cars.

More ABC US news | ABC World News

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Advertise With Us

Would you like to advertise on East Idaho News? Fill out this form to contact a representative.
  • Full and Last
  • The name of your company, business or brand.