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Saturday
Jul022011

Accomplice to Help Authorities Track Suspected Navy Vets Scammer

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- State and federal authorities have a new ally in their hunt for a fugitive who allegedly created a fake charity aimed at cashing in on the public's support for military veterans, and then vanished with millions of dollars in donations.

The mustachioed man who authorities say assumed the stolen identity Bobby Thompson remains at large but Ohio officials secured a guilty plea last week from his female partner, 39-year-old Blanca Contreras. And in exchange for a promise not to prosecute her daughters, state officials told ABC News, Contreras promised to cooperate with their efforts to track him down.

"The goal is still to bring the gentleman known as Bobby Thompson to justice," said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's office.

Authorities say that using his fake name, Thompson set up a charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association and reported raising more than $100 million on its tax forms. To help enhance the charity's credibility, Thompson allegedly used some of the money to make large campaign contributions to prominent politicians, most of them Republicans including President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain, and House Speaker John Boehner. He attended events with the political figures, and posed for now infamous photos with them.

In 2009, the St. Petersburg Times newspaper began raising questions about the veterans charity – finding that none of the members of its board could be located, and its addresses seemed only to lead to post office boxes. Most of the money the charity had purported to raise was unaccounted for, and as authorities began following up on the reports, Thompson disappeared.

Last fall, Florida lawmaker Darryl Rouson told ABC News he had initially helped the man he thought was Bobby Thompson. "He seemed to be a knowledgeable man about politics and community affairs," Rouson said. "He was engaging, jovial. I had no reason to suspect he was anything other than who he said he was."

According to Ohio authorities, "Thompson" was last seen in a New York City hotel. They said he had stolen the identity of a real man named Bobby Thompson from Washington state. He also had an identity card from the state of Indiana issued under the name of a man from New Mexico named Ronnie Brittain, they added. The real Ronnie Brittain is the head of a veterans group in New Mexico.

Tierney told ABC News that Contreras is scheduled to be sentenced on August 3, and faces up to 25 years in prison for her conviction on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft, money laundering, and tampering with records.

While investigators at the Ohio Attorney General's Office are pleased with the conviction, they told the St. Petersburg Times they are not ready to celebrate.

"Am I high-fiving people right now? No," Special Agent Arvin Clar told the newspaper after Contreras appeared in an Ohio courtroom and pleaded guilty. "I want to find Bobby Thompson."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul022011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Giant Step Closer to Freedom

Shannon Stapleton-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, has been released from house arrest, with the case against him now in shambles.

Arm and arm with his wife, a smiling Strauss-Kahn, strolled out of Manhattan Court on Friday as a free man, at least for now.

Outside the courtroom, there was anger from Ken Thompson, the attorney for the 32-year-old accuser.

"We believe the DA is laying a foundation to dismiss this case. Anyone can see that," said Thompson.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, whose office is prosecuting the case, said the investigation would continue. Prosecutors, however, say they have learned about inconsistencies and outright lies by the alleged victim that make the case much harder to take to trial. The alleged victim has reportedly admitted lying about her whereabouts immediately after the alleged attack.

Prosecutors also say she has fabricated her income and lied about how many children she has to keep her housing and increase her tax refund.

Authorities also point to a conversation she had with a jailed drug dealer about how she could benefit monetarily from going forward with the case.

"These recent disclosures re-enforce our conviction that he will be exonerated," said Brafman.

"We've maintained from the beginning that Mr. Strauss Kahn is innocent of these charges," said Strauss Kahn's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman.

The victim's lawyer concedes that his client has made some mistakes, but says that doesn't mean she wasn't raped. He points to her physical trauma and the DNA found inside the hotel room. The DA's office agrees some type of sexual encounter did take place.

"...the medical evidence supports the victim's account," said Thompson.

"We believe we have done nothing but to support her. Our office's commitment is to the truth and the facts," said DA Vance.

While Strauss-Kahn is a giant step closer to freedom, the alleged victim's lawyer says she's not going away.

"The victim will stand before you and tell you because she said I will go to my grave knowing the truth, knowing what this man did to me," said Thompson.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul022011

Casey Anthony Trial: Who Searched for 'Chloroform'?

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Closing arguments are set for Sunday in the Casey Anthony trial after the prosecution called its final witnesses to try to undermine Casey Anthony's mother Cindy's claim that she, not Casey made computer searches that are a key to the murder case.

The judge has given both sides the day off so they can prepare for closing arguments.

On Friday, prosecutors tore Cindy Anthony's testimony apart and now there are serious questions on whether Cindy Anthony could be brought up on perjury charges.

Casey Anthony is accused of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony in 2008 and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Earlier in the trial, Cindy Anthony stunned prosecutors when she said she was responsible for searches for chloroform on the family computer in March 2008, months before little Caylee Anthony disappeared.

The prosecution had argued in its opening statement that it was Casey Anthony who had searched for chloroform 84 times as well as "neck breaking" and "household weapons."

The prosecution says Casey Anthony killed her daughter with chloroform and duct tape placed over her nose and mouth.

The computer search allegations are also key to proving premeditation. The defense has argued that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool and that George Anthony, Casey Anthony's father, helped hide the body.

Computer records revealed that someone using Cindy Anthony's username was logged on to her computer at the hospital where she worked for nearly nine hours on March 17, 2008 and March 21, 2008, the days computer searches for chloroform were done by someone in the Anthony family home.

Cindy Anthony previously claimed that she'd searched for chloroform because she suspected her smallest dog might be getting poisoned from eating bamboo leaves in the backyard. Her search started with "chlorophyll" and spiraled to "chloroform," she said.

Computer expert Kevin Stenger from the Orange County Sheriff's office testified Friday that he found no reference to chlorophyll in searches done on the Anthony family's desktop computer in March 2008.

Cindy Anthony had also said that a pop up with the words "neck breaking" was on her screen when she claimed she searched for chloroform. Stenger said that somebody searched for "neck breaking" and it did not come from a pop up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul022011

Fourth of July Honors for Widow, Infant Son in Holiday Parade

Comstock(LEWISBURG, Tenn.) -- While most Fourth of July parades opt for a celebrity grand marshal, in Lewisburg, Tenn., parade chairman Jamie Bone wanted his grand marshal to be someone different, "someone who has truly made a difference in the world."

So he called 22-year-old Crissie Carpenter, who became a widow and a single mother in February when her husband, a Marine, was shot in Afghanistan.

"At first I was unsure if I wanted to do it," Carpenter said. After thinking it over for a couple of days, she decided, "It's an honor for me to do it for Andy."

On Valentine's Day, Crissie received word that her husband, a lance corporal, had been shot in the neck while serving in Helmand Province, put on a ventilator and transported to Germany.

Just five days later, Crissie Carpenter was overwhelmed with a difficult decision: "I had to say it's O.K. to turn off the ventilator," she said.

Andrew Carpenter, age 27, died Feb. 19, and three weeks later his wife gave birth to a boy, Landon -- a name they had picked together.

Bone said more local organizations and businesses have joined the Lewisburg parade this year because of Crissie Carpenter.

"We've had a tremendous response," he said. "We're expecting this to be the largest parade we've ever had."

It's a bright note for Lewisburg, a small town that's less than an hour from Nashville. Like many towns in America, it's been struggling with high rates of unemployment.

During the procession Carpenter will ride with her son in a horse-drawn wagon followed by another wagon with the parade's honorary grand marshals: the families of three Lewisburg veterans who died in recent years.

Landon, Crissie's son, will be wearing a onesie that says, 'My Daddy Died for Our Freedom' and she, along with her family, will wear T-shirts with Andrew's name on it.

Although Carpenter says she is still angry about what happened to her husband, she wants her son to grow up knowing his dad was a hero. "In the sense that everybody is there for me, it does feel good," she said. "I hope Landon will one day be able to look back at it … to see that everyone came together … I would think he would be very thankful for what they did for me."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul022011

Casey Anthony Trial: Prosecution Presents Rebuttal

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Prosecutors in the Casey Anthony trial on Monday presented their rebuttal to the defense's closing arguments, reasserting that forensic evidence links Casey Anthony to the murder of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.

The jury in the Anthony trial is expected to start deliberating the fate of the 25-year-old Florida woman on Monday.

Prosecutor Jeff Ashton attempted to shore up forensic evidence presented in his case after defense attorney Jose Baez called the state's case "fantasy forensics" in his closing argument on Sunday.

Ashton also said it was "absurd" for the defense to argue that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool and that George Anthony, Casey Anthony's father, helped dispose of the body.

"Any way you slice it...Casey Anthony is guilty of murder in the first degree in this case," Ashton said.

The prosecution argues that Casey Anthony chose to sacrifice her daughter to be free of the restraints of young motherhood.

Casey Anthony looked away from the monitor as Ashton showed jurors images of Caylee's skull and skeletal remains found on Dec. 11, 2008, nearly six months after the little girl disappeared. Cindy and George Anthony, Caylee's grandparents, also looked down as the images were shown.

Ashton showed the images in an attempt to dispel the defense's argument that Caylee's remains were tampered with, either by George Anthony or the meter reader who found them, Roy Kronk.

The prosecution poked holes in the defense's claims that George Anthony had anything to do with Caylee's death and that he tried to implicate his daughter to deflect blame from himself.

On Sunday, defense attorney Baez portrayed George Anthony as a selfish man, saying repeatedly, "George only cares about George." Baez and his defense team attempted to undermine a suicide attempt that George Anthony painfully described on the witness stand last week.

"If he really wanted to kill himself, he could have," Baez said.

George Anthony attempted suicide in January 2009, just weeks after Caylee's remains were found.

On Sunday, Judge Perry reprimanded both Ashton and Baez after Baez interrupted his summation and yelled to jurors that prosecutor Jeff Ashton was a "laughing guy" as Ashton barely hid a smile behind his hand.

Perry threatened to expel attorneys from the courtroom if the gamesmanship continued.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul022011

Casey Anthony Trial: Sexual Abuse Claims Barred from Closing Arguments

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The Casey Anthony trial judge dealt a significant blow to the defense Sunday by barring Casey Anthony’s lawyers from discussing her claims of being sexually abused by her father and brother in their closing arguments.

Casey Anthony, 25, is accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee and could face the death penalty if convicted.

A key part of Casey Anthony's defense theory is that she did not tell anyone for 31 days that Caylee was missing and then insisted for months that Caylee was stolen. Her lawyer claims she made up those stories because she was "trained to lie" through years of sexual abuse by her father and brother.

Before closing arguments began Sunday, Judge Belvin Perry said that there is no proof that sexual abuse occurred.

"There's absolutely no evidence the defendant was sexually molested by her father or her brother," the judge said.

The defense claims that Caylee drowned accidentally in the Anthony family pool. They claim that Casey Anthony's father, George Anthony, helped dispose of the body and that Casey Anthony hid her child's death in the same way she hid years of alleged incest.

Defense attorney Jose Baez attempted to counter Perry's ruling by arguing that testimony throughout the trial could leave jurors with the inference that abuse occurred. Baez argued the fact that paternity tests were done on George Anthony and her brother Lee Anthony to determine if they might be Caylee's father, and that Casey Anthony did not visit a gynecologist until she was 19 were indications that abuse occurred.

"There was also evidence about Ms. Anthony's sexual background and behavior. It's also common knowledge that people who are victims of sexual abuse often grow up to be promiscuous and have issues about the boundaries of sexual activity...lying...compartmentalizing...all of these issues were testified to and all of them are consistent with those who have been sexually abused," Baez argued.

Perry retorted, "Did Mr. Lee Anthony testify? Did anyone by chance ask Mr. Lee Anthony whether or not he creeped into his sister's room day or night and attempt to molest her?"

George Anthony denied on the witness stand that he molested his daughter, but neither the prosecution nor the defense asked Lee Anthony about molesting his sister.

The prosecution argues that Casey Anthony killed Caylee with potent chloroform and duct tape over her nose and mouth.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul012011

Maria Shriver Divorcing Arnold Schwarzenegger

Chelsea Lauren/FilmMagic(LOS ANGELES) -- ABC News has learned that Maria Shriver has filed for divorce from former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger after 25 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences. The filing comes after Schwarzenegger's admission that he fathered a son with their former housekeeper. 

Shriver is asking for joint custody of the couple's two minor children and spousal support.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul012011

Cities on High Alert as July Fourth Nears: 'Threat Is Very Real'

COmstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Although no specific plot has been identified, revelers this Fourth of July can expect extraordinary security -- from expanded patrols and SWAT units to biological weapon response teams and undercover officers mingling with celebratory crowds.

"It's absolutely not a joke," said New York police Sgt. Thomas Horvath, who took ABC News on patrol around New York City's waterways. "The threat is very real. On the day of the [July 4] event, we're going to put out basically every asset we have."

And those assets will likely include a boat designed for the NYPD that detects radiation from a nuclear bomb or radiological "dirty" bomb.

Its sophisticated equipment monitors all radiation readings in the area. Any suspicious readings can be instantly sent to the Brookhaven laboratory in Washington D.C. for analysis by nuclear physicists. There are only two such boats in the world.

This year, police are especially concerned because evidence from Osama bin Laden's compound revealed that he wanted to kill Americans on July Fourth or by the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

"We all know that the Fourth of July is a signature holiday," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Friday. "Some of our enemies abroad would like to exploit that."

With tourism season going full tilt and this week's attack on a hotel in Afghanistan, police are boosting patrols in hotels too.

"I have deployed officers at a number of hotel locations around the city," New York Police Department Chief Ray Kelly said. "We are on alert. No question about it."

Kelly told ABC News that he'd been preparing for an attack similar to the one in Afghanistan and in Mumbai, India, where terrorists assaulted hotels for hours with small arms and weapons.

The U.S. Park Police will be on the case over the holiday weekend, too, said Teresa Chambers, chief of the U.S. Park Police, which oversees security on the National Mall.

The Park Police and FBI will have extra units and patrols on alert. Backpacks and coolers will be checked as people go through them looking for contraband, alcohol, fireworks and weapons.

"Within the United States Park Police, every tactical aspect that we have available and every uniformed person will be working," Chambers said. "What's important is what you won't see -- plainclothes officers, enhanced technology, a coordinated regional effort. It's the best security plan I've ever seen."

The FBI will be operating its command center at the FBI Washington field office, and the FBI's National Capital Response Squad, with units trained in crisis response, will be on the watch during the holiday weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul012011

NASA's Charles Bolden Gets Emotional on End of Space Shuttle Program

NASA/Bill Ingalls(WASHINGTON) -- Facing the end of his beloved Space Shuttle program, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden became emotional several times Friday when speaking about the future of the U.S. space program.

The final space shuttle is scheduled to take off July 8. Once the mission is completed, America will have to rely on the Russians to get its astronauts into orbit to the International Space Station.

The head of NASA discussed the future of his agency and U.S. manned spaceflight at a lunch Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Also in attendance was astronaut Mark Kelly, the commander of the previous shuttle mission and husband of Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was seriously wounded at an event with constituents in Tucson, Ariz., in January.

Bolden tried to be optimistic.

"Some say that our final shuttle mission marked the end of America's 50-year dominance in human space flight," he said. "As a former astronaut and the current NASA administrator, I am here to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least -- at least -- the next half century because we've laid the foundation for success."

Bolden was emphatic.

"For us at NASA, failure is not an option," he said.

The NASA administrator said the Space Station will remain in operation until at least 2020. And he talked about plans for missions to Mars, the Moon and to an asteroid.

"So when I hear people listen to the media reports and they say that the final shuttle flight marks the end of U.S. human space flight, I have to tell you: You all must be living on another planet," he said. "We are not ending human space flight."

Bolden wants to see private companies in the U.S. build and operate the rockets that will carry Americans into space. Bolden became emotional when remembering the shuttle astronauts who gave their lives in tragic accidents.

"We also remember the hard lessons that have helped us to continually improve safety," he said. "We shall always remember the crews of STS 51, Challenger, and STS 107, Columbia, who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Bolden repeatedly vowed to continue the manned space program.

"I spent 14 years at NASA," he said. "Some of the people I respect most in the world are my fellow astronauts. Some of my best friends died flying on the shuttle, and I am not about to let human spaceflight go away on my watch."

The NASA administrator said the end of the shuttle program won't mean the end of the U.S. space agency.

Getting emotional again, he said, "So when that final shuttle landing occurs and the cheers and tears subside, we will keep on moving toward where we want to go next. Your kids and my grandkids, they're going to do things that today we can barely dream of."

Former shuttle commander Mark Kelly announced his retirement from NASA and the Navy last month. Some have speculated he could have political ambitions -- something he joked about at the lunch.

"There has been quite a lot of speculation about what my plans are and if I plan to run for public office," he said. "I will go into more detail about that next week when I visit Iowa and New Hampshire," he added, to laughter.

But Kelly ruled out getting into politics, at least for the immediate future.

"My main focus right now and for the foreseeable future is Gabby's recovery and spending more time with my kids," he said at the lunch. "She is the politician and the family, and I am the space guy, and I see no reason to change that now."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul012011

Casey Anthony Trial: Did Her Mom Lie about Computer Search for Chloroform?

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The prosecution in the Casey Anthony murder trial presented evidence that questioned the truthfulness of Cindy Anthony's testimony in her daughter's first degree murder trial.

Earlier in the trial, Cindy Anthony stunned prosecutors when she said she was responsible for searches for chloroform on the family computer in March 2008, months before little Caylee Anthony disappeared.

The prosecution had argued in its opening statement that it was Casey Anthony who had searched for chloroform 84 times as well as "neck breaking" and "household weapons."

The chloroform searches are part of the prosecution's circumstantial case against Casey Anthony who is accused of murdering Caylee and could face the death penalty if convicted. The prosecution argues that Casey Anthony killed her daughter with chloroform and duct tape placed over her nose and mouth.

The computer search allegations are also key to proving premeditation. Casey Anthony cannot be convicted of first degree murder and face the death penalty without proof of premeditation.

In Friday's testimony, computer use records shown to jurors indicated that Cindy Anthony was at work during the time she claimed to have searched for chloroform from home. Computer records revealed that someone using Cindy Anthony's username was logged on to her computer at the hospital where she worked for nearly nine hours on March 17, 2008 and March 21, 2008, the days computer searches for chloroform were done by someone in the Anthony family home.

Cindy Anthony's one time supervisor at the hospital where she worked as a nurse testified that she oversaw Cindy Anthony's time sheets for their accuracy and would never falsify a time sheet and it would be illegal for Cindy Anthony to have falsified them.

Cindy Anthony previously claimed that she'd searched for chloroform because she suspected her smallest dog might be getting poisoned from eating bamboo leaves in the backyard. Her search started with "chlorophyll" and spiraled to "chloroform," she said.

Computer expert Kevin Stenger from the Orange County Sheriff's office testified today that he found no reference to chlorophyll in searches done on the Anthony family's desktop computer in March 2008. The only reference to dogs was a search for fleas, he said. References to bamboo referred to furniture and a tiki bar.

Testimony in the month-long trial ended Friday and Judge Belvin Perry scheduled summations for Sunday. The jury could begin deliberating Casey Anthony's fate as early as Sunday and are expected to work through the Fourth of July.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio