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Thursday
Jun022011

Couple Who Kidnapped Jaycee Dugard Being Sentenced

El Dorado County Sheriff via Getty ImagesUPDATE: The judge on Thursday sentenced Phillip Garrido, 60, to the maximum sentence of 431 years to life in prison, according to ABC News affiliate KABC-TV. His wife, Nancy, was sentenced to 36 years to life.

(PLACERVILLE, Calif.) -- The California couple who kidnapped then-11-year-old Jaycee Dugard from her home in 1991 and held her captive for 18 years will be sentenced Thursday in a California courtroom.

Phillip and Nancy Garrido pled guilty to various kidnapping and sexual assault charges on April 28.  They were arrested in August 2009, when Dugard, then 29 and living under an assumed name, accompanied Philip Garrido to a meeting with his parole officer.

Garrido had been called in to meet with his parole officer after acting suspiciously on the campus of the University of California-Berkeley.  Dugard brought along to the meeting two young children that Garrido had fathered with her.  Under questioning, she broke, dropping the façade Garrido had forced her to use for 18 years and admitted she had been kidnapped.

Investigators later uncovered a secret encampment guarded by a six-foot fence in the Garridos' backyard in which Dugard was kept captive.

Both Phillip and Nancy Garrido could be sentenced to life in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun022011

DOT to Hold Campaign Promoting Teen Driver Safety

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Teenage drivers are disproportionately involved in fatal crashes with large trucks, according to the Department of Transportation.

Although the inexperienced drivers make up just six percent of motorists, they account for 19 percent of fatalities.  That's why the transportation agency will hold a "Teens and Trucks" campaign Thursday to educate young drivers about the hazards of the road and how to steer clear of a truck's "No Zones."

"It's about teaching our least experienced and already our highest risk drivers the importance of steering clear of truck's 'No Zones,'" DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro says.

"The 'No Zone' are the blind spots around a truck, and steering clear of a truck's 'No Zones,' making sure that the truck driver has you in his sites is a sure way to avoid any sort of crash," she explains.

During the demonstration, teens will be staged around a truck's "No Zones" and will be seated in the truck's driver's seat "so that they can see just what those blind spots really are, how extensive they are, and generally, its a sobering message for teens who participate in these events," says Ferro.

The campaign comes just as summer is approaching, a time when it is especially deadly for this age group on the road.

"Between graduation season, start of the summer, this is among the most deadly period for teens on our nation's highways.  In fact, in the summer months, teens are at double the risk for crashes on our roadways," Ferro says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun022011

Missouri Accounts for All of Joplin's Missing Persons

Julie Denesha/Getty Images(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- Ten days after a monstrous tornado tore through the city of Joplin, Missouri, state officials now say that their grim task of trying to find unaccounted-for residents is over.

According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, all those reported as missing have either been found or confirmed as dead.

Initially, there were reports of as many as 1,300 missing persons after the twister that struck Joplin on May 22, prompting Gov. Jay Nixon to order both the Department of Public Safety and Missouri State Highway Patrol Troopers to conduct a search for unaccounted-for individuals.

Eventually, that figure was reduced to 268 missing persons, with 144 people found alive and 128 confirmed as deceased, and their next of kin notified of their passing.

Gov. Nixon praised the state agencies involved in the search for their "outstanding professionalism and dedication in carrying out the vital mission of locating every individual who was unaccounted for after the storm."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun022011

Plane Carrying MLB Team Makes Emergency Landing in Los Angeles

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A charter flight carrying the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was forced to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday night.

The baseball team was returning from a three-game road trip in Kansas City and were on their way to John Wayne Airport in California's Orange County when hydraulic issues forced the plane to reroute.  The Boeing 737 with 51 people on board landed safely at LAX.  No injures were reported.

Angels pitcher Rich Thompson tweeted upon landing, "Glad to be on the ground safe, pilot did a he'll of a job bringing the bird down!"

Victor Rojas, the team's TV announcer, also took to Twitter, posting, "Believe it had something to do w hydraulic system & the possibility of having issues coming to a stop...safe landing. Great job by crew."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun022011

Taped Conversation Shows Casey Anthony Building Elaborate Lie

Orange County Government, Florida(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The prosecution in Casey Anthony's murder trial put the Florida woman's ability to create elaborate lies on full display Wednesday, playing a taped conversation of Anthony calmly describing to police the nanny who she claimed kidnapped two-year-old Caylee.

A stone-faced Anthony listened in court to the audio tape from July 16, 2008, the same day she would be arrested in the disappearance of her daughter, Caylee.  On the tape, Anthony is being questioned about her written statement regarding Caylee's disappearance.

Anthony tells Yuri Melich, a detective in the missing children's unit, that she's telling the truth about Caylee being kidnapped by nanny Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez and defends why she didn't contact the police during the month when only she knew Caylee was missing.

"I think part of me was naive enough to think I could handle this myself, which obviously I couldn't and I was scared that something would happen to her if I would have notified the authorities…the fear of the unknown, fear of the potential of Caylee getting hurt, of me not seeing my daughter again," Anthony said on the tape.

She said she was also scared to tell her parents, George and Cindy Anthony.

When asked about the nanny, Anthony appeared to build the lie as she went along, giving the fictional nanny three different addresses where she had lived, a mom named Gloria, and roots in New York City.  Anthony said that her one-time boyfriend, Jeffrey Hopkins, introduced her to the nanny when she was pregnant with Caylee.

Both Hopkins and Fernandez-Gonzalez are fictional characters, her lawyer has conceded.  Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's mom, testified Tuesday that she learned they were "imaginary people" after Caylee's disappearance.

Anthony used her lie of working at Universal Studios to explain why she didn't have phone numbers for the babysitter, Hopkins or for another fictional person, a supposed co-worker named Juliette Lewis.  She told police that a phone that her job had provided for her wasn't working and it held some of the phone numbers they needed.

On the tape, she calmly describes the day Caylee disappeared.

"I got off of work, left Universal, driving back to pick up Caylee like a normal day.  I show up to the apartment, knock on the door and no one answers.  So I call Zenaida's cell phone and it's out of service…so I sit down on the steps and wait for a little bit to see if maybe it's just a fluke, maybe something happenened," said Anthony in the taped conversation.

"After about 7 o'clock …I was getting pretty upset, pretty frantic...I didn't really want to come home, I wasn't sure what I would say about not knowing where Caylee was," Anthony said.

All of this would prove to be lies that Casey Anthony's own defense team has acknowledged.  They opened the murder trial last week by claiming Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool on June 16, 2008.

The prosecution claims Casey Anthony killed her daughter.  If convicted of first-degree murder, the 25-year-old Florida woman could face the death penalty.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Porn at the SEC: Agency Watchdog Investigates More Employees

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission still has a porn problem.

A new report from the SEC's inspector general David Kotz details how three employees and a contractor were caught checking out porn at work, the latest string of incidents uncovered by the agency's watchdog. Kotz only launches investigations after the SEC's security system flags employees for repeated attempts to access porn websites, but as he outlines in his new semi-annual report to Congress, he recently conducted probes into four workers.

In October of last year, Kotz looked into a staff accountant at the agency's Washington headquarters who used his work computer to try to access porn "hundreds of times." The employee successfully managed to get to "numerous sexually explicit photographs from his SEC computer, including graphic depictions of sexual acts," Kotz found, noting that much of the porn activity occurred during work hours. The employee initially did not deny that he had used his work computer to access the material, but later declined to testify as part of the inspector general's investigation. The probe culminated in Kotz recommending disciplinary action against the employee, including removal from his job. As of the end of March, SEC management had proposed that the employee be removed. 

But the staff accountant wasn't the only one at the SEC looking for porn on the clock.

Two other SEC employees and one contractor for the agency also were the subjects of investigations by Kotz's office. One of the employees -- an attorney who works at the agency's headquarters -- tried to access porn repeatedly during a two-month period. He was rebuffed by the agency's security system hundreds of times, but in "many instances" he was successful in getting to the sexually explicit images. The attorney later resigned.

Another attorney at headquarters was also on the prowl for porn at work. He used his work computer to access "inappropriate images of partially or fully nude women," according to Kotz -- a total of at least 70 images. The employee refused to testify as part of the investigation. As of the end of March, SEC management had recommended that he be removed from his post.

The contractor, meanwhile, used his SEC computer to check out numerous sexually explicit images, "including graphic depictions of sexual acts," Kotz found. When confronted by the IG's office, the contractor admitted to accessing the porn and had his contract with the SEC terminated by agency management.

It's not the first time Kotz has uncovered a slew of SEC employees spending their work hours looking at porn. Back in April of last year, Kotz released a report outlining how employees were checking out pornographic websites at the same time as the financial crisis was unfolding -- and when Bernie Madoff was swindling investors out of tens of billions of dollars.

The 2010 report, conducted at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, found 31 serious porn offenders at the SEC during a two-and-a-half-year period. While that was only a tiny fraction of the SEC's 3,500 employees, 17 of the alleged porn offenders were senior officers at the agency, making up to $222,000 a year. One senior attorney spent up to eight hours per day accessing porn, even filling boxes in his office with CDs and DVDs that contained porn that he had downloaded. Another employee -- an accountant -- tried to access porn sites a staggering 16,000 times in one month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

'Person of Interest' Questioned About Missing Nursing Student Michelle Le

Goodshoot RF/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- A woman who was once friends with a missing California nursing student has been declared a "person of interest" in the case and been questioned by detectives, police said.

Michelle Le, 26, vanished on Friday on her way to the garage at Kaiser Hospital in Hayward in northern California. She is a student at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, where she was pursuing an accelerated bachelor's degree combining academic work with clinical training.

Hayward cops served a warrant over the weekend at the home of the former friend, whose name has not been released, and seized her computer and cellphone.

"We ultimately released her and she remains, as do a couple of others, as a person of interest," said Lt. Roger Keener of the Hayward Police Department.

Keener played down possible parallels between Le's disappearance and an unsolved case in Solano County last year, in which the body of nursing student Phuong Le, 24, was found in Napa County 12 days after she disappeared outside a bookstore in Fairfield, Calif.

Fairfield is about a half-hour's drive from Hayward.

Keener acknowledged that are a number of similar elements in the two disappearances. Both women drove white Hondas, they had the same last name, similar physical appearance, and both were nursing students.

"We can't discount it in its entirety," Keener said. But he said that after talking to police in Fairfield, where Phuong Le disappeared, investigators felt there was a "slim chance" the two cases are related.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Obama Admin. Rejects Indiana’s Ban on Planned Parenthood Funding

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration Wednesday rejected Indiana’s proposal to ban the use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood clinics.

In a letter to Patricia Casanova, director of the state Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning, Dr. Donald Berwick, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that Indiana’s ban violated a provision of the law allowing that “beneficiaries may obtain covered services from any qualified provider that undertakes to provide such services.”

In May, GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a law banning Medicaid funds from going to "any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed."

Daniels said that “any organization affected by this provision can resume receiving taxpayer dollars immediately by ceasing or separating its operations that perform abortions.”

Those who oppose abortion have long argued that even if federal funds don’t directly go to fund abortions in groups such as Planned Parenthood, allowing such clinics to receive funding for other services frees up private funds to be spent on abortions.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana says that 96 percent of its work is preventative, with only four percent abortion-related. Four out of the 28 Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana perform abortions. A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Indiana has said that 20 percent of its annual budget comes from federal funding.

Noting that “federal Medicaid funding of abortion services is not permitted under federal law except in extraordinary circumstances (such as in cases of rape or incest),” Berwick wrote that “Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider’s scope of practice.”

Between January 2010 and May 31, 2011, CMS had formally denied 19 state plan amendments, though not for the same reason. An Obama administration official says that CMS did not impose penalties in any of these matters, and the state ended up complying with the CMS ruling.

Officials from the Indiana Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Joplin, Mo., Once Host to Mickey Mantle, Will Have Baseball this Summer

Joplin Outlaws/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- The storm that tore a gash through the heart of Joplin, Mo., and left thousands homeless also took out six miles of neighborhood schools and parks. The Little League fields that stood beside Joplin High School are covered with debris, the wooden dugouts and chain link backstops blown away.

"Baseball is key in Joplin," said Mark Rains, general manager of the Joplin Outlaws, the town's nonprofit summer collegiate team. "Mickey Mantle played here."

Indeed, the "Commerce Comet," from nearby Commerce, Okla., played for the Joplin Miners before he was called up to the Major Leagues. Decades ago, Mantle even owned a Holiday Inn in Joplin.

But now, with the city's residential neighborhoods a vast wasteland of wooden shards, and the contents of countless garages scattered, the kids of Joplin have no place -- and no means -- to play catch. Yet, there will be baseball in Joplin this summer, despite the storm.

The home of the Outlaws, the Joplin Athletic Complex situated just north of historic Route 66, survived the tornado. So, somehow, did the homes of all 16 host families who provide housing to the players who come to town for two months every summer.

The team only arrived in town on Sunday, a week after the storm struck. Just a handful of those on the roster had ever set foot in Joplin before the tornado wiped out about a third of it.

This week, the 27 members of the Outlaws team lined up to get tetanus shots, before donning work gloves and digging into the debris. They cleared a tee-ball park Tuesday. Wednesday, they worked to remove the splintered wood and mangled metal that covers the Little League field.

The Outlaws' home opener on Friday will be free for all who can make it. In fact, the team is waiving the admission fee all season.

"There's no way we can charge the people of Joplin," Rains told ABC News. "There's no way. There's people that have nothing."

Rains and the fellow members of the Outlaws board of directors are going further, offering a free two-day camp for the kids of Joplin next week, waiving the normal $30 fee.

But having already decided to forgo a major source of revenue -- the $2 admission fee -- the team needed help. In an interview with ABC News Radio Monday, Rains put out the call: "We're looking for donations of gloves, balls and bats for the youth of Joplin, Mo., who have no bat or no ball or no glove. "They can come to camp and go away with the experience of being with the Outlaw players, get to know 'em, go back to their shelter or wherever they might be staying, and play catch," Rains said. "Our board has a lot of faith in God, and we know it'll happen."

By Wednesday, after the story aired, Rains told ABC News that he had received calls from listeners all across the country -- from New York to Los Angeles -- interested in lifting the spirits of Joplin's youth. "I'm afraid that when I go home tomorrow, my driveway's going to be so full of stuff, I'm going to have to get a forklift truck to move it," Rains said.

Last year's camp served 120 kids. Rains says this year he's expecting hundreds more.

Learn more about the Joplin Outlaws on their website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Casey Anthony’s Brother: She Had No Reaction to Caylee's Disappearance

Orange County Government, Florida(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Lee Anthony, the brother of Casey Anthony, testified Wednesday that when his sister first told him that the babysitter had stolen her 2-year-old toddler Caylee she was cold and displayed no emotion.

"She just looked at me really with no reaction," Lee Anthony said. "She told me that she had not seen Caylee in 31 days, that she had been kidnapped and that the nanny took her."

Casey Anthony stuck to that story for nearly three years until her murder trial began in an Orlando, Fla., courtroom last week. The defense claimed on the first day of the trial that Caylee wasn't kidnapped, and that she drowned in the family pool on June 16, 2008.

The prosecution claims Casey Anthony killed her daughter. If convicted of first degree murder, the 25-year-old Florida woman could face the death penalty.

Lee Anthony testified about July 15, 2008, the day that police were finally alerted to Caylee's disappearance. He testified about the day when a combative Casey Anthony had been brought from her boyfriend's apartment to the family home by her mother, Cindy Anthony, who demanded answers about the whereabouts of her granddaughter.

Cindy Anthony's concerns were heightened by the fact that earlier that day, she and her husband George had picked up Casey Anthony's abandoned car from a tow yard and complained that the car smelled like human decomposition.

Lee Anthony testified that his mother had asked him to come to the home to help get answers from his sister about Caylee. He said that Casey refused to let anyone from the family pick up her daughter, saying that Caylee was sleeping at the nanny's house and that she didn't want to disrupt the toddler.

Casey Anthony told her brother that their mom "had numerous times thrown it in her face" that she "was an unfit mother for Caylee" and that their mother "had also referenced Caylee as being a mistake, but a great mistake or the best mistake that Casey's ever made," Lee Anthony said.

Finally, after telling Casey that the police were on their way and that they would go to the nanny's home whether she wanted to take them there or not, Casey Anthony confessed that her daughter had been missing for a month.

When Cindy Anthony heard that her granddaughter was stolen, she became frantic and called 911 for a third time that day and a police officer arrived within minutes.

Brendan Fletcher, the police officer who responded to the Anthony home, testified Wednesday that Casey Anthony was initially uncooperative with him. Eventually, Anthony told Fletcher that a nanny named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez had Caylee at the Sawgrass Apartments. Fletcher and another deputy drove to the apartment with Casey Anthony. The lights were off and no one was home, Fletcher said. The officer said he could see into the apartment and noticed there was no furniture.

Lee Anthony showed little emotion Wednesday, while Casey Anthony cried at the sight of her brother and during a lengthy side bar among the lawyers and the judge.

Casey Anthony's defense team has claimed that her elaborate lies during the time of her daughter's life and disappearance were the way she coped with years of alleged abuse at the hands of her father, George Anthony, and alleged attempted abuse by her brother, Lee Anthony.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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