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Monday
Mar212011

Is the Government Overpaying for Prison?

Darrin Klimek/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Keeping some federal detainees in motels might be cheaper than renting them a cell in a local jail.

A report released Monday reveals the federal government will sometimes pay more than $100 a night to house detainees at state and local corrections facilities. For that price, you can get a clean room, cable TV, and a buffet breakfast at many national motel chains.

An audit conducted by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General charges that the federal government is paying $1.2 billion a year -- and at least $15 million too much -- for jail space. Ironically, the report also found that the feds are often being ripped off by their correctional colleagues in state and local government.

"We found that state and local detention facilities at times take advantage of a shortage of options for federal detainees and demand rates that appear to generate excessive profits -- sometimes in the range of millions of dollars," the IG report states.

It's simple supply and demand: state and local governments have empty jail cells, the federal law enforcement officials need them to house federal detainees temporarily. Immigration or drug enforcement sweeps, for example, can flood the system with suspects who need to be incarcerated. With demand for jail space high, state and local governments are driving a hard bargain.

The audit found that the federal government pays an average of $65 per night to keep between 35,000 and 37,000 detainees locked up every night. In some cases, however, the audit found the feds pay as much as $119 a night. According to the Hotel Price Index for 2010, the average hotel room in North America cost just under $115 per night.

The IG examined 25 agreements for jail-day rates paid by federal corrections officials, and found that it "potentially paid about $15 million more than it cost the facilities to house federal detainees..." The audit concluded that the federal government "would have realized significant cost savings if it had consistently used a jail's operating expense data as leverage in its negotiations to achieve a fair jail-day rate."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Japan Disaster: Body Found of First American Victim

Courtesy Julia Anderson(TOKYO) -- The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo believes it has identified the first American to die in Japan's devastating tsunami -- Taylor Anderson, 24, of Richmond, Va. -- according to U.S. officials.

Anderson's family has not positively identified the body, officials said. The State Department told ABC News that it was unable to confirm Anderson's death; however, her family released a statement on Monday.

"It is with deep regret that we inform you that earlier this morning we received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Japan that they had found our beloved Taylor's body. We would like to thank all those whose prayers and support have carried us through this crisis. Please continue to pray for all who remain missing and for the people of Japan. We ask that you respect our privacy during this hard time," the statement said.

Anderson was a teacher in the city of Ishinomaki as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program; she'd been participating in the program for two and a half years.

Jean Anderson told ABC affiliate WVEC-TV that her daughter was last seen after the earthquake. She was riding her bike toward her apartment after ensuring that students at her school had been picked up by their parents. The tsunami hit the shores of Ishinomaki shortly afterward.

The family received news Tuesday that she was safe and in a shelter but that information was false.

Ishinomaki is located in the Miyagi Prefecture, a coastal area that took the full force of the tsunami.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Yoga Shop Murder Spawned by Argument over Stolen Merchandise?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Brittany Norwood, the Maryland woman accused of murdering her co-worker in a yoga shop and then staging a fake crime, was in possession of stolen merchandise at the time of the killing, state prosecutors said.

A confrontation between Norwood and 30-year-old Jayna Murray over the stolen merchandise may have led to Murray's death, State Attorney John McCarthy said.

Appearing in a Montgomery County courtroom via video conference, Norwood was ordered to be held without bond.

During the court hearing, new details emerged about the alleged attack. Prosecutors claim the struggle between Norwood and Murray at the Lululemon Athletic shop in Bethesda, Md., may have lasted more than 20 minutes, ABC Affiliate WJLA reported.

The blows to Murray's head were too numerous to count. Her skull was fractured and spinal cord severed by a wound that extended through her neck, WJLA reported.

Norwood was arrested Friday and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Murray, her co-worker at the store.

Police discovered the crime scene March 12 at store in Bethesda. Murray was dead and Norwood was bound with her hands tied above her head.

Police say Norwood told them that after closing up the store for the night on March 11, she and Murray, a fellow employee, returned to pick up the wallet she had forgotten at work. Two masked men followed them in, bound them, sexually assaulted them and when Murray resisted, they beat and stabbed her to death, police say Norwood told them.

But Norwood's story apparently didn't add up. Medical examiners found no evidence of sexual assault on either victim. Only two sets of footprints were found -- Norwood's, and one from a pair of shoes found at the scene, which police theorized Norwood used to plant false footprints.

When Norwood was found by a store employee opening up the next morning, police say the position she was tied in, with her hands bound above her head, was suspicious to police, suggesting she might have fastened the bonds herself.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Houston Woman Charged in Fatal Day Care Fire Returns to U.S.

Fulton County Sheriff's Office(HOUSTON) -- The Houston woman charged in a day care fire that killed four toddlers is back in the United States after being arrested in Nigeria.

Jessica Tata, 22, became one of the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitives when she fled from Houston following a fatal fire at her home-based day care center Feb. 24.

Tata was captured in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, by Interpol and U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security agents, according to a statement from the U.S. Marshals.

Tata faces four counts of manslaughter, six counts of reckless injury to a child, three counts of abandoning a child under 15 and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Toddlers Elizabeth Kajoh, Kendyll Stradford, Elias Castillo, and Shomari Dickerson died in the fire at the west Houston home called Jackie's Child Care.

Prosecutors allege that Tata left the children alone in the house while she went shopping, and while she was gone, the fire broke out on a stove-top burner that had been left on.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Child Safety-Seat Recommendations Revamped 

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.) -- The American Academy of Pediatrics released its new policy on car seats Monday, advising parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats until the age of two.

The new policy, published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics, is an upgrade from the AAP's previous policy from 2002 in which it cited a 12-month and 20 pounds minimum for rear-facing car seats.  This minimum prompted many parents to flip the seat to face front as soon as their kids turned one.

Along with the new age limit, the AAP also noted in its new policy that toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat.  The academy also advised this in 2002.

For older children, the academy suggested they should reman in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are between the ages of eight and 12 and have reached a height of four-feet-nine inches.  It also recommended that kids should ride in the back seat until they are 13 years old.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

US Army Apologizes for Afghan Trophy Photos

US Army(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Army is apologizing for photographs published in the German magazine Der Spiegel this weekend that show American soldiers posing beside the corpse of an Afghan civilian they are accused of having killed for sport.

An Army statement responding to the photos publication says, "Today Der Spiegel published photographs depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army.  We apologize for the distress these photos cause.”

The photographs are part of the evidence seized in the case against five U.S. Army soldiers who are accused of murder and conspiracy for the deaths of several Afghan civilians.  The soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division were deployed to southern Afghanistan last year at the time they are alleged to have participated in the killings.  They are facing court martial at their home base of Fort Lewis, Washington.

“The actions portrayed in these photographs remain under investigation and are now the subject of ongoing U.S. court-martial proceedings” said the Army statement.

Several photos show the soldiers lifting a corpse by the hair.

The Army statement says the photos are “in stark contrast to the discipline, professionalism and respect that have characterized our Soldiers' performance during nearly 10 years of sustained operations.”

Because the case is being prosecuted the Army limited its comments but stressed that it is “is committed to adherence to the Law of War and the humane and respectful treatment of combatants, noncombatants, and the dead.”

“When allegations of wrongdoing by Soldiers surface, to include the inappropriate treatment of the dead, they are fully investigated.  Soldiers who commit offenses will be held accountable as appropriate," the statement read.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Will Libya's Gadhafi Attack the United States?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As an international coalition pounds armed forces still loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, intelligence experts said that despite fears of a desperate terror attack on Americans, Gadhafi likely no longer has the means to carry out such an attack.

"I think clearly from what we've seen he's got intent, but the second piece is capability," former senior U.S. intelligence official Phil Mudd told ABC News. "He's been out of this business a long time so whether he's retained the capability is an open question. Whether he can resuscitate it, I think, is an even bigger question."

Gadhafi had been in the process of dismantling a stockpile of highly lethal mustard gas when a popular uprising put his 42-year reign in jeopardy. International monitors gave Gadhafi a deadline for this May to complete the dismantling but he has not yet completed it.

"It's clear that he has some mustard agent left," said Charles Duelfer, a former U.N. weapons inspector. "To use that, to drop it on somebody, you need to put it in something. And so far as anyone's been able to tell, he doesn't really have munitions to effectively use that. So I think that the military risk posed by this is relatively small."

On ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen said the remaining amount of the chemical was being "very closely monitored."

"I haven't seen it as a problem thus far," he said.

Concern over a possible terrorist attack directed by Gadhafi was raised Friday when White House terrorism advisor John Brennan told reporters the Libyan leader "has the penchant to do things of a very concerning nature."

"We have to anticipate and be prepared for things that he might try to do to flout the will of the international community. Terrorism is certainly a tool that a lot of individuals will opt for when they lose other options," he said.

Any attack on Americans would not be the first terror strikes linked to Gadhafi.

Last month, Libya's justice minister said he had "proof" Gadhafi directed the deadly attack on Pan Am flight 103, which killed 189 Americans when it blew up over Scotland in 1988.

Two years earlier, two Americans died in an attack on a German disco popular with American servicemen. In retaliation, then U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered an airstrike on Gadhafi's personal compound.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Wisconsin Police Officer Killed, Other Wounded After Standoff

Officer Craig Birkholz. Fond du Lac Police Department(FOND DU LAC, Wis.) -- A Wisconsin police officer was killed and another wounded after a six-hour standoff with a gunman Sunday morning.

According to authorities, Fond du Lac police were investigating a report of sexual assault at a home around 6:30 a.m. when an armed man opened fire on them, shooting Officer Craig Birkholz, 28, in the chest and killing him.  K-9 Officer Ryan Williams was also shot in the chest and taken to a nearby hospital where he remains in critical condition. He is expected to survive.  Williams' K-9 partner, Grendel, was also injured.

The gunman, James Cruckson, 30, committed suicide six hours after the shooting began, police said.

State investigators are now looking into the incident.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar212011

Protests Held Across US on Eight-Year Iraq War Anniversary

US Army/Spc. Jessica Rohr(WASHINGTON) -- There were small protests throughout the U.S. Saturday to mark the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Ironically, the demonstrations came on the same day that Western powers started an assault to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, the largest international military action since the Iraq war began on March 19, 2003.

Unlike Iraq protests that featured tens of thousands of marchers in some U.S. urban centers eight years ago, only a few hundred people at most turned up at gatherings in cities that included New York, Washington, D.C, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In the nation's capital, Daniel Ellsberg, who gained notoriety during the Vietnam War for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, was arrested outside the White House along with about 100 other protesters.

There was also a demonstration against the Iraq war in Hollywood attended by students from over 40 high schools and community colleges, while in San Francisco, police said that a few hundred people marched peacefully from United Nations Plaza to Union Square.

Meanwhile, a small rally in New York's Time Square quickly turned from an Iraq war protest to calls for an end to the bombing of Libyan targets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Victim-Turned-Suspect Goes to Court in Murder Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- It wasn't just that some of Brittany Norwood's story didn't add up. From the moment police entered the crime scene March 12 at the Lululemon store in Bethesda, Md., nothing made sense.

"Almost none of it matched up," former FBI agent Brad Garrett said as he surveyed the scene at Lululemon, where the windows were full of flowers, notes and pictures of Jayna Murray, who police say was murdered in the store.

Norwood, 27, told police that after closing up the store for the night on March 11, she and Murray, a fellow employee, returned to pick up the wallet she had forgotten at work. Two masked men followed them in, bound them, sexually assaulted them and when Murray, 30, resisted, they beat and stabbed her to death, Norwood said.

But police said medical examiners found no evidence of sexual assault on either victim. Only two sets of footprints were found -- Norwood's, and one from a pair of shoes found at the scene, which police theorized Norwood used to plant false footprints.

When Norwood was found by a store employee opening up the next morning, police say the position she was tied in, with her hands bound above her head, was suspicious, suggesting she might have fastened the bonds herself. Murray's car had also been moved, and was spattered with the blood of Norwood, who told police her assailants ordered her to repark the car, which had been outside the store, and return in 10 minutes or be killed.

Workers at the Apple computer store next door told police that on the night of the killing, they heard two women arguing.

Norwood's wounds were superficial, while Murray's were deep and penetrating. The crime scene was sprayed with blood, which Garrett said suggests an act carried out in intense rage.

Police were at first stymied for a motive, but now they say they believe it was a workplace dispute that turned lethal, possibly after Murray accused Norwood of stealing from the store.

Norwood, who is charged with first-degree murder, faces a Monday court appearance.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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