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Monday
Jun202011

NY Little League Mom Arrested for Alleged Threats After Son Fails to Make Team

File photo. Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(EAST MEADOW, N.Y.) -- Keeping kids busy in the summer is paramount for many parents, although not enough to land most of them in jail. But that's where Janet Chiauzzi, 44, found herself after allegedly threatening a Little League official when her son didn't make the summer travel team in East Meadow, N.Y.

"This is a tragic situation and horrible for the community," said Stew MacKay, one of the presidents of the East Meadow Little League on Long Island. "When you deal with children and parents running things, it gets dicey."

Nassau County police allege that a league official and his son received threatening letters from Chiauzzi May 21 after her son did not make the team. In the letters, according to the allegations, Chiauzzi also threatened the official's wife and daughter. Both of his children are younger than 14.

Less than two weeks later, police said, the principal of the children's school received letters from Chiauzzi claiming that the Little League official had abused his children. The Nassau County Child Protective Services investigated the accusations and found them to be groundless.

But Chiauzzi didn't stop there, authorities said. She allegedly sent six more letters to the Little League "attempting to defame the victim and force his removal as an official," according to police.

Chiauzzi was arrested on stalking charges Saturday night.

She has been charged with four counts of stalking, two counts of falsely reporting an incident, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and four counts of aggravated harassment.

Chiauzzi was arraigned Sunday and later released from jail on $6,000 bail, according to the Nassau County Correctional Center. She could not be reached for comment.

Chiauzzi is expected to appear in court again Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Wildfires Ravage 6 States: Ariz., Texas, Calif., N.M., Colo. and Ga.

This Landsat 5 satellite image of the Wallow North Fire in east central Arizona shows the burn scar in red; the fire ongoing in really bright red; vegetation in green; smoke in blue; and bare ground in tan.
Credit: NASA/USGS, Mike Taylor
(SIERRA VISTA, Ariz.) -- About 10,000 Arizonans have been forced to flee from their homes as wildfires continue to consume wide swaths of the southwestern United States on Monday. Three dozen fires are raging across parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California, as well as Texas and Georgia, forcing additional evacuations and slowing traffic to a crawl as highways in the path of the firestorms are closed.

Walls of flames have reached 10 feet in some areas and have burned more than 1.2 million acres.

"I feared for my husband and my animals [and] for the air quality," June Carter, an Arizona evacuee, told ABC News.

More than 700 firefighters have come from across the country to battle what has become known as the Monument Fire south of the city of Sierra Vista, Ariz., which has been burning since last week.

The Wallow blaze, in eastern Arizona, has consumed 519,319 acres, as more than 3,500 firefighters attempt to defend against its advance. Despite its size, the fire has only destroyed 32 homes and four rental cabins. Containment rose to 51 percent Sunday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., came under verbal fire Monday for partly blaming the fire on illegal immigrants.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain said Saturday at a news conference. "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

A U.S. Forest Service spokesman, speaking of the Wallow Fire in Arizona, said there's no evidence it was caused by immigrants. McCain's office said Monday that he was talking about fires in general, not just the Wallow Fire, and that there is evidence smugglers and illegal immigrants have caused fires on the southern U.S. border while camping or traveling.

The other major fire in the area, in Cochise County, Ariz., called the Horseshoe Two Fire, has charred about 210,000 acres and destroyed 23 structures since it started May 8.

Diminishing winds Monday should help firefighters battle the blazes, after a week's worth of sustained high winds that helped fuel the fires. A recent drought has also led to dry, dusty conditions that help wildfires thrive.

Along with Arizona, Texas has been the hardest hit. North of Houston, a 14,000-acre blaze is among the largest East Texas has ever seen. The fire has burned 15,000 acres, and temperatures are about 100 degrees. The choking smoke forced a five-hour shutdown of I-45, the only interstate that connects Houston and Dallas.

The Track Fire, straddling the border between New Mexico and Colorado, which began last week near the town of Raton, is now 90 percent contained. But a new fire is burning nine miles north of Santa Fe.

Further east in Georgia, about 200 firefighters have slowed the expansion of a couple of 20,000-acre fires in the southeastern part of that state. Smoke shelters are open in Jacksonville, Fla., Monday because of the noxious fumes resulting from the fires to its northwest.

In California, firefighters are battling a fire that began Sunday morning that has already devoured 5,068 acres from a Kern County oil field to a remote area of eastern San Luis Obispo County. Five water-dropping helicopters are supporting 337 firefighters on the ground, but there have been no reported injuries and only one structure has been destroyed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Lawyer Argues for Andrea Yates Release

BRET COOMER/AFP/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Ten years ago on Monday, Andrea Yates called 911 after drowning her five children in the family's bathtub and admitted to the first police officer to arrive at her Houston home, "I just killed my kids."

Now, Yates is being treated in a minimum-security mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas, from which her longtime lawyer, George Parnham, says he's "highly optimistic" she will be released after her recommitment hearing in November.

The first step is to secure the recommendation of her doctors. "I think that this year the doctors will recommend a regimen of therapy in a community-based outpatient facility," says Parnham.

Controversial as her case has been, Yates' attorney and friends argue her mental health is much improved after years of treatment and medication for postpartum psychosis and other conditions. Initially committed to the maximum-security North Texas State Hospital Vernon Campus, Yates was transferred to Kerrville in 2007.

"When this first happened, she was severely mentally ill and would experience extreme sickness at around this time each year," says Parnham.

But with therapy and treatments including anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication such as Effexor, one friend who regularly visits Yates says, "She's come full circle and she's really well."

The highly publicized trials of Yates in 2002 and 2006 focused the nation's attention on postpartum psychosis and the nation's insanity laws. During her first trial, Yates' attorneys argued that she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and delusion. She believed Satan was inside her, and that killing her children would save them from hell. Although she was initially found guilty, the appeals court later overturned the verdict.

In her second trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. At the time, defense lawyer Parnham described the verdict as "a watershed event in the treatment of mental illness."

After years of waiving the right to the hearing, Parnham plans to go before the court this year to argue that Yates is no longer dangerous to herself or others, and that her mental condition will not deteriorate if she is released. A judge or jury will eventually determine whether Yates meets these standards.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Casey Anthony Trial: Judge Warns of Mistrial

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Casey Anthony trial Judge Belvin Perry scolded both defense attorney Jose Baez and prosecutor Jeff Ashton on Monday for their "gamesmanship" and repeated violations of court rules of evidence.

Perry even hinted at the possibility of a mistrial, saying that he will exclude key witnesses for the defense if they continue to present surprise opinions that neither the judge nor the prosecution is aware of beforehand. Those exclusions could result in a mistrial on grounds that the defendant, Casey Anthony, did not receive due process of law.

"Enough is enough and both sides need to be forewarned that exclusion even at the price of having to do it all over again, which I don't think I will have to do it all over again, because of repeated violations, exclusion might be the proper remedy if it continues," Perry said.

On Saturday, Perry threatened Baez with contempt of court and halted testimony by defense witness William Rodriguez when it became apparent that Rodriguez was offering testimony which wasn't in a report submitted to the prosecution. The omission of his opinion regarding duct tape on two-year-old Caylee's remains violated procedural rules implemented by Perry at the outset of the trial.

Baez is representing Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of murdering her daughter, Caylee. She faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

At one point Monday, the judge asked both men to look at the clock at the same time and tell him the time. Ashton said it was 9:25 a.m. Baez said 9:26. Perry replied that it was clear "the two of you will never agree on anything." He threatened both of them with ramifications at the end of the trial.

Judge Perry called for recess until 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Weight Loss Guru Wanted by Feds on Insurance Fraud Charges

Federal Bureau of Investigation(CHICAGO) -- A doctor who advertised his weight loss clinics on Chicago TV for nearly a decade has attracted more attention than he wanted. Dr. Gautam Gupta is being sought by the FBI on charges that he defrauded insurance companies and the government out of $25 million.

Gupta, 57, may have fled to India, the FBI said.

"We are looking into every possibility as to where he fled. India is a possibility, but that's why we're asking the public to help us track him down or get any information on his whereabouts," an FBI spokesman said.

Gupta owns up to five Nutrition Clinics in Illinois. A federal criminal complaint accuses Gupta of mail fraud, health care fraud, and conspiracy. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

The criminal complaint alleges that Gupta and members of his staff submitted claims to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance Company and the Illinois Medicaid program for unnecessary procedures or procedures that were never even performed. During the period of June 2001 through January 2010, the Nutrition Clinic was paid almost $25 million for such claims.

"Several patients stated that ultrasound tests were conducted on them before they came into contact with a physician or physician assistant. There would, therefore, be no way for the physician or assistant to determine if this patient had a condition, or symptoms of a condition, which would indicate an ultrasound test of any kind was needed," stated the complaint.

The complaint stated that staff members at times did not consult physicians when handing out weight loss drugs such as Phentermine or diuretics saying that "patients were required to return to the clinic once a week or once every other week in order to obtain more Phentermine or other controlled substances. During these return visits, the patients would have their weight or blood pressure taken by various females dressed in medical scrubs and would not leave the room in order to obtain a physician's permission or authorization to prescribe and dispense the drug or to increase or decrease the dosage."

Calls by ABC News to several of Gupta's nutrition centers were all routed to the same person who repeatedly said, "No comment," and hung up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

McCain's Claim That Illegal Immigrants Started Wildfires Disputed

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- A U.S. Forest Service official said on Sunday there is no evidence that illegal immigrants started some of the wildfires in Arizona, as Sen. John McCain has claimed.

Tom Berglund, spokesman for the federal group managing the Wallow fire that McCain toured on Saturday, said the cause of the fire has been determined as "human," specifically an "escaped campfire," meaning the campfire sparked beyond the confines of the rocks containing it.

Two "subjects of interest" have been spoken to, but as of now, no suspect has been named, Berglund said.  When asked if there is substantial evidence that some fires were caused by illegal immigrants, as McCain said at a news conference Saturday, Berglund said, "Absolutely not, at this level."

"There's no evidence that I'm aware, no evidence that's been public, indicating such a thing," he said.

"We are concerned about, particularly, areas down on the border where there is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain said Saturday at a press conference, according to CNN.  "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

"They have set fires because they want to signal others.  They have set fires to keep warm and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them," McCain said.

McCain offered no evidence to substantiate his claims, however, prompting criticism from Latino civil rights advocates.

The Wallow fire has burned 511,118 acres of land, according to InciWeb, an online database that tracks natural disasters.  On Saturday, it was about 38 percent contained, according to the Arizona Republic, but authorities are concerned about high winds.  The 200 residents of Luna, N.M., located seven miles away from the Arizona border, were evacuated on Saturday.

The Wallow fire is one of five wildfires currently being battled in Arizona, including the Monument fire in southern Arizona, which destroyed dozens of homes last week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Dalia Dippolito's Husband Speaks About Wife Hiring Hit Man to Kill Him

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Mike Dippolito, the man whose wife was caught on camera hiring a hit man to kill him, didn't feel any joy when Dalia Dippolito was sentenced to 20 years in prison last week.

"It didn't necessarily make me feel good.  It makes you realize how serious what was really going on was," said Mike Dippolito.  "It's just something you can't imagine anybody could really, really do.  It was so senseless for a girl, my wife...to take those steps to do that.  It was so unnecessary."

In 2009, detectives in Boynton Beach, Fla., set up an undercover sting operation targeting Dalia Dippolito after being tipped off by an old lover that she wanted her husband dead.  She was caught on camera hiring an undercover police officer who she thought was a hit man and seen faking tears in a mock crime scene set up by police to make her think her husband had been murdered.

The couple had been married just six months and strange things began happening to Mike Dippolito shortly after the marriage began.  His money would go missing and somebody had planted drugs in his car trunk.

"I was in love with my wife…that day when they told me your wife is going to have you murdered, everything just sort of fell into place...it just solidified for me I'm not crazy," Mike Dippolito said.  "I think she might have loved me for a week."

Since learning of the plot, Mike Dippolito said that he's suffered a nervous breakdown.  The couple are still married and are working on their divorce proceedings.

When her family begged for leniency as Dalia Dippolito wiped away tears last week, Judge Jeffrey Colbath said the 28-year-old woman took advantage of the man who loved her.

"You used guile and sophistry to dupe others into your web of deception.  You were the puppet master that was pulling all the strings...It was pure evil," Colbath said.

Outside of the courtroom, Mike Dippolito supported the judge's ruling.

"I wish we were never here, and as far as the sentence, I'm 5,000 percent happy with it," he said.

The 5,000 percent Mike Dippolito mentioned was in reference to the undercover video showing his wife saying she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted him dead.

During her trial, Dalia Dippolito's defense team claimed that the plot was fake and a ploy to get a reality television show.  Her lawyers claimed her husband, Mike, was in on the plot too.  Mike Dippolito has denied those claims.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Plane Sweeped at Reagan National Airport Following Bomb Threat

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A US Airways plane was deemed clear by FBI officials after landing at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Sunday afternoon following a bomb threat.

According to authorities, a verbal bomb threat was made regarding US Airways flight 2596 at a ticket counter in Dayton, Ohio -- where the plane originated.  Citing an FBI spokesperson, ABC News affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. reports that Dayton Airport Police have taken the woman who allegedly made the threat into custody on a "mental health hold."  No charges have been filed against her.

The bomb threat was received while the plane was approaching its destination, Reagan National Airport.  Upon landing safely, all 44 passengers on board were bused from the airplane to the terminal.

No hazards were found after officials sweeped the plane.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Dying Man Gets Last Wish, Reunited with Dog

AbleStock[dot]com/Hemera Technologies(CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa) -- Everytime paramedic Jan Erceg thinks about Kevin McClain, she said she gets goose bumps. In more than three decades on the job, this is one patient Erceg, 54, said she would never forget.

"I've been a paramedic so long -- you get kind of hardened sometimes, and things like this make you realize you haven't seen it all and you should never lose your humility in life," she said.

McClain, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer, would later affect several others in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, his life taking on new meaning as he neared death. And it was all because of the bond he shared with his dog, Yurt, a connection Erceg said "defies explanation."

Brandi Garrett, 28, who looked after McClain at the Dennis and Donna Hospice House of Mercy, said McClain worried about where his dog would go after he died and who would take care of her. But most of all, he wanted to see her one last time.

McClain had been living in his car in a Walmart parking lot when paramedics found him unconscious in early May. McClain was very sick and was taken to a hospital, while Yurt was found to be healthy and was taken to an animal shelter.

Erceg met McClain while transferring him from the hospital to a hospice facility and she met Yurt while volunteering at the animal shelter.

Hospice arranged for Yurt to visit McClain, and Erceg drove Yurt over in an ambulance.

"This dog, I swear to God she knew where she was going. She was just freaking out -- yipping and shrieking. We got to the hospice house, and she just made a beeline for the front door," Erceg said.

Yurt headed straight toward McClain's room, where the dog jumped onto the bed that McCain was in and onto her owner. After more than an hour, Erceg gently tried to remove Yurt from the bed, but McClain grabbed his dog's head and kept stroking it.

Erceg began to cry as she remembered his final words to Yurt. "He told her 'behave. You behave.' ... That was his acceptance -- he knew that was going to be the last time he saw her."

McClain died the next day.

Yurt was recently adopted by a couple from Marion, Iowa, who say the dog has been exceptionally well-behaved, is already housebroken and "very obedient and intelligent."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

Tucson Welcomes Home Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was back in Tucson, Arizona over the weekend for the first time since the shooting incident in early January that nearly claimed her life.

Giffords met with family members and friends in her home city but made no public appearances.  Still, it was an emotional homecoming for the Arizona Democrat following months of intensive rehabilitation in Houston.

Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet event with constituents in front of a Tucson supermarket on Jan. 8 when police say that 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner shot her in the head and then opened fire on others, killing six people and wounding 12 more.

Despite initial reports that Giffords didn't survive the shooting, doctors were able to save her life, although the bullet that passed through the left side of Giffords' brain has resulted in an arduous recovery that will continue at the Houston home Giffords shares with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

During her return to Tucson, a Giffords aide said, "Tucson has come to feel the same way about Gabrielle Giffords, if they haven’t already, as she feels about them.  From what I can understand, from what I’ve heard, folks down here are really glad to have her back, if only for a short visit."

Loughner, meanwhile, was ruled unfit to stand trial, although he is receiving treatment at a mental facility in order to enable him to face the 49 federal charges against him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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