Texas Judge Who Beat Daughter Not Sorry, Says It Was 'Discipline'

ABC News(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- A prominent Texas judge who was filmed beating his daughter with a belt and cursing at her said he was merely disciplining his child and did nothing wrong.

"No, in my mind I haven't done anything wrong other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing.  And I did lose my temper, but I've since apologized," Judge William Adams told KZTV Wednesday after the video went viral on the Internet.

Hillary Adams, the daughter who is seen being beaten in the video, secretely recorded the beating seven years ago and recently uploaded it to YouTube on Oct. 27.  The video was then posted on Reddit, a link-sharing website, where it racked up millions of views and incited anger among viewers.

"I just wanted somebody to see it and tell me, 'No, Hillary this wasn't right and I'm glad you were able to grow up and move on past this' and 'No, your dad wasn't right,'" Hillary Adams told ABC News' Chris Cuomo.

Both Hillary and William Adams have said the beating took place as punishment for then-16-year-old Hillary illegally downloading from the Internet.  It was shot in 2004 by a secret camera Hillary set up when she anticipated her father might beat her.  She said the beatings were a regular part of her life during those years, but she did not publish the video until now because she feared it would incite more violence.

"Another fight was getting out of control and I knew the beating was coming so I just waited," Hillary Adams said.

Hillary and her mother, Hallie Adams, have since moved out of the family home.  The family has not said where a younger daughter, age 11, is living.

The Aransas County Court, where William Adams has his office, posted a sign canceling his hearings for Thursday, according to ABC News affiliate Kiii-TV.  Phone calls to the judge's home and office went unanswered that day.

Neighbors told the news station that the judge and his girlfriend were seen leaving Wednesday after taking belongings from their home, including bags, hanging clothes, a briefcase, a laptop, and six to eight gun cases.

The video, which prompted thousands of calls of complaint to the courthouse, sheriff's office, and police department, also prompted a police investigation into the matter.  Authorities will try to authenticate the video and then turn it over to the district attorney, who can then present it to a grand jury.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Convictions of Three Men Overturned in 1991 Rape and Murder

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Three men imprisoned for nearly 20 years for the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl will be freed this week after DNA testing linked a different man to the crime.

Robert Taylor, one of the exonerated men, walked out of Illinois’ Stateville Correctional Center on Thursday a free man, while two others also wrongfully convicted in the case will have their convictions vacated, prosecutors said Thursday.

The three men serving time, along with two others, were convicted in the November 1991 death of Cateresa Matthews.  The 14-year-old girl was last seen at her grandmother’s house and was found dead by a highway near Dixmoor, which is about 20 miles south of Chicago.

The details of this wrongful conviction story have made it stand out, and defense attorneys have been seeking new DNA testing since 2009.  The young men accused of the assault of Matthews and her murder by a single gunshot to the mouth were young teenagers at the time -- three were 14, two were 16.

The treatment which the young men received at the hands of investigators one year later when brought in for questioning was also dubious, as they were held in custody and interrogated for hours before some signed confessions.

Although DNA evidence recovered from the girl’s body did not match any of the five defendants, and even though the confessions were questionable, prosecutors moved forward with the case against them.

The group came to be known as “The Dixmoor Five.”  Defense attorneys claim at least one of the teens was told that they could see their parents if they signed confessions during a marathon questioning.

Ultimately two of the five young men received shorter sentences for testimony implicating the other three.  Robert Lee Veal, now 34, and Shainne Sharp, now 36, received reduced 20-year prison sentences in exchange for their testimonies.

According to records, both Veal and Sharp served approximately 10 years each.

Now, recent tests have identified a serial rapist as the source of the DNA, a man who was 33 at the time of the murder.  That man is serving prison time in Cook County for a drug offense and is currently under investigation for Matthews’ murder.

“It’s truly unexplainable,” said Taylor’s attorney Josh Tepfer.  “It’s one of the most tragic injustices in this state’s history.  It’s five kids who were wrongfully convicted…while a true perpetrator went on and lived a criminal lifestyle.”

The other two exonerated men, Jonathan Barr, 34, and James Harden, 36, who are brothers, should be released on Friday once paperwork is completed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


‘Person of Interest’ Questioned in Illinois Teen’s Murder

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- As hundreds of friends and family members poured into a suburban Chicago funeral home to say goodbye to 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin, police in a tiny Illinois suburb on Thursday announced they are questioning a “person of interest” in her murder.

“We have a person of interest in custody, and we’re working feverishly to bring this to a conclusion,” said Indian Head Park Police Chief Frank Alonzo at a brief press conference at which he took no questions.  "No charges have been filed.”

Police say the brutal killing of the high school freshman is the first murder ever in this tight-knit community of 3,700 people.  Kelli was discovered by her mother inside the family’s home last Thursday.  She had been stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.  Investigators believe she came home from school and walked in on a burglary.

Investigators with the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force have combed through more than 100 leads.  They are also searching for several rare coins -- including some from a Las Vegas casino -- believed stolen from the O’Laughlins' home.

The man police have in custody is reportedly on parole and thought to be connected to a recent string of burglaries in the region.  Sources close to the investigation say search dogs tracked the man’s scent to a highway rest stop near the O’Laughlin family’s home, where he may have hailed a taxi.

The latest developments in the case come as Kelli’s distraught family holds her wake and prepares for her funeral.  

On Wednesday, Kelli’s father, John O’Laughlin, released a statement on behalf of his family, saying, “We are truly overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of support we have received from the community and all those who knew and loved Kelli.  We are so grateful to everyone who has offered their support and condolences at this difficult time.”

So many people are expected to attend Kelli’s funeral on Friday morning that community members are conducting a roadside vigil to help ease the overflow crowd.  They’re calling it “Join Hands and Hearts for Kelli,” and asking neighbors to line the mile-and-a-half route between the funeral home and the church, in a show of support for Kelli’s family.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Drowsy Driving Kills

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Driving tired. Experts say it can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds nearly a third of drivers admitted nodding off at the wheel during the past month of driving.

“I think that drowsy driving might be the largest, most unrecognized traffic safety problem that we face in this country,” said Peter Kissinger of the AAA Safety Foundation.

Drowsy driving may cause as many as 17 percent of all accidents and 5,000 deaths a year on the nation’s roads, according to the foundation.

In the study, 96 percent of drivers said it is not OK to drive while you’re sleepy. Despite that, 32 percent admitted they had done just that within the last month.

“A lot of people have gotten away with it in the past and, therefore, they’ve built up a false sense of security, they’ve reinforced a bad habit,” said Kissinger.

In a 2010 study, the AAA Foundation estimated that tired drivers were responsible for one in six fatal crashes, and one in eight crashes that sent someone to the hospital.

In more than half of the accidents, sleepy drivers drifted into another lane or off the road entirely.

The AAA Foundation said many drivers think they can simply will themselves to stay awake.

“Many drivers simply underestimate the problems associated with drowsy driving but, at the same time, they overestimate their ability to deal with it and that’s a deadly combination,” said Kissinger. “You cannot will yourself to stay awake. And when your body says enough’s enough, you are going to go to sleep.”

So what’s an exhausted driver to do?

“The only thing that really works is getting some rest,” said Kissinger. “So if you are driving and you start getting tired and finding yourself rolling the window down or turning up the radio, it’s time to pull off the road and get some rest.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


More Americans Than Ever in Poverty

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Great Recession has changed the face of poverty in America.

More people -- 46.2 million - live in poverty today than at any other time in American history. And compared to the 1990s they are more likely to be white, live in the Midwest, have a high school diploma and own a home, according to a Brookings Institute report released Thursday.

“This has been a really tough decade economically,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, an author of the Brookings Institute report. “After two economic downturns and falling incomes over the 2000s, we’ve seen that [poverty rate] push back up. It’s likely that we have not seen the last of the increases in America’s poor population.”

With manufacturing jobs disappearing and unemployment sticking above nine percent, poverty rates in some Midwest cities, such as Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, have doubled over the last decade. And in the South, poverty in some metro areas, such as El Paso, Texas and Baton Rouge, La., has increased by more than a third, according to the report.

“These communities tend to have higher crime rates, worse health outcomes for residents, schools are often poorer performing and there are fewer job opportunities and networks to connect people with jobs,” Kneebone said.

But despite these recent increases, America has seen darker days when it comes to people in poverty.

“Obviously we are not in a Great Depression,” said Linda Barrington, the managing director of Cornell University’s Institute for Compensation Studies. “We cannot make a comparison to what was happening then. But that doesn’t give us a lot to celebrate about.”

While there was no official poverty measure during the Great Depression, scholars estimate that about one-third of American families were critically poor. That is more than double the 15.1 percent poverty rate in 2010. However, because the population has nearly tripled since 1940, there is a larger number of Americans in poverty today than during the Great Depression.

“The point is [that] it is really high,” Barrington said. “But it’s not historically high.”

In fact, since an official poverty line was developed in the 1960s, the poverty rate has peaked above 15 percent only twice, in 1993, when it was also 15.1 percent, and in 1983, when it hit 15.2 percent.

To be classified as impoverished, a family of four has to earn less than $22,314 and an individual has to make less than $11,139, or about $30 per day.

“In the United States today, [poverty] doesn’t necessarily mean children starving in the streets and homeless people, although they are a small part of the poverty story,” said Shawn Fremstad, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “It is more about struggling, and running up debts, and cutting corners and all sorts of those things because of economic pressure.”

Both Fremstad and Barrington said the best way to lower the poverty rate is to jump-start the economy so it creates more jobs.

“The single most important thing is getting a job,” Barrington said. “If you’re poor and don’t have a job, you don’t have savings. You have to get money to get above the poverty line and you get money by working.”

While the national poverty rate is above 15 percent, only about seven percent of people working full time are below the poverty line.

“You can get the rate down from 15 to five by getting a lot more people employed,” Barrington said. “So jobs are the first thing.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tennessee Man Arrested for Threatening to ‘Destroy’ Va. Congressman

Alex Wong/Getty Images(GLEN ALLEN, Va.) -- A Tennessee man is sitting in jail Thursday for allegedly placing two threatening phone calls to the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week -- “screaming, profanity-laden messages [that] allegedly stated that the caller was going to destroy Rep. Cantor, rape his daughter and kill his wife,” according to the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Glendon Swift, 62, of Lenoir City, Tenn., was arrested late Wednesday for threatening the Virginia Republican and his family in two voicemails left at Cantor’s Glen Allen, Va., office the evening of Oct. 27.

A member of Cantor’s staff retrieved the messages and alerted the U.S. Capitol Police, which sought the assistance of the FBI to identify and locate the individual who made the calls.

“Threatening to harm the family of a public official is a very serious charge, and we are grateful to the FBI and their law enforcement partners for their quick action in this case,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for Cantor, declined to comment on the threats, telling ABC News, “This is a law enforcement matter.  We have no comment.”

The FBI identified Swift as the individual who subscribed to the phone number used to make the call. He was reportedly arrested without incident on Wednesday night by the FBI in Knoxville and the Lenoir City Police Department after allegedly admitting to law enforcement that he left the threatening messages.

Swift was charged by criminal complaint of threatening to assault or murder a member of the immediate family of a United States official, according to the FBI. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Swift made his initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in Knoxville, Tenn., earlier Thursday afternoon.   

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


For-Profit Colleges Target Military Personnel, Market High-Interest Private Loans

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- America’s students are in debt, $1 trillion in debt in fact. But while most college graduates struggle to repay loans with less than 10 percent interest, some military personnel are drowning under significantly more expensive loans.

Holly Petraeus, CIA Director David Petraeus’s wife and an advocate for military families, told a Senate panel Thursday that for-profit colleges are actively targeting military personnel and their families, marketing private loans with inflated interest rates.

“There are some real concerns, there is real aggressive marketing right now to the military and not just to military members, but to their spouses and to their children as well,” Petraeus said.

To pay for the pricey private schools, these colleges often market “expensive private student loans” to service members, said Petraeus, who as the assistant director of the Office of Service-Member Affairs at the newly-formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working to protect military families from such predatory loans.

Petraeus said she spoke with an Army wife at Ft. Campbell in Kentucky who had enrolled in an online course through a college she thought was officially associated with the military. She said representatives from the school, which actually had no military affiliation, called her a dozen times per day until she agreed to register.

But help was nowhere to be found once the school received her tuition payment. The woman ended up failing her course because she had trouble logging on, Petraeus said.

While meeting with service members around the country, Petraeus said she also heard horror stories of loan companies charging crippling interest rates. One internet lender, she said, tells service members who visit their site: “We  believe that your membership in the armed forces entitles you to special treatment. We speak your language!”  That language includes a steep interest rate on their loans that far out-paces rates on government-offered loans. And when military personel fall behind in their payments, harassing debt collectors take over.

“They may call a service member’s home and unit 20 or 30 times a day, threaten them with the uniform code of military justice, and tell them they’ll get them busted in rank or have their security clearance revoked if they don’t pay up,” Petraeus said. “We’ve even heard of a debt collector harassing a surviving spouse of a service member killed in action, insisting that she had to use the money from his death gratuity to pay off a debt immediately.”

College costs aside, many military members are in debt before they even enlist. Petraeus said that on a recent trip to Texas, “We were told that the average Air Force recruit arrives at Lackland Air Force Base for basic training over $10,000 in debt.”

“A continuing issue for the military is the general issue of indebtedness,” Petraeus said. "Unfortunately there are still too many young troops learning about wise spending through hard experience and years of paying off expensive debt.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sexual Assaults Reported in 'Occupy' Camps

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alleged sexual assaults at Occupy Wall Street camps have raised concerns about security in a handful of cities, including reports of rape and groping in tents at New York's Zuccotti Park and a sex offender in Dallas having sex with an underage runaway.

The recent reports of assaults have created a problem the "Occupy" movement is being challenged to address head-on.

"We always encourage victims to go through the proper channels and contact police," said Brendan Burke, 41, who helps run the security team in Zuccotti Park.

But that's not always the case. Burke admitted there have been times when members of the community have taken it upon themselves to chase off men who exposed themselves in the park.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- addressing the allegations of sexual assault Thursday -- said the reported practice of chasing perpetrators, rather than reporting them to police, is "despicable." If the reports are true, he said, the protesters have made the city less safe.

Burke said the group is taking action to help prevent any future assaults, something that camps across the country have began to address.

Some of the measures being implemented in camps include a well-lit, female-only sleeping area and a night security watch, which numbers 15 people at any given time, Burke said.

This comes just as Tonye Iketubosin, 26, was arrested late Tuesday for allegedly sexually assaulting two women, both inside tents in New York City's Zuccotti Park.

The first alleged attack occurred Oct. 24 after Iketubosin helped a 17-year-old girl to set up her tent. After he refused to leave, he allegedly groped the girl.

The second alleged assault occurred Oct. 29 after an 18-year-old woman from Massachusetts agreed to let Iketubosin sleep in her tent. She said she awoke to find him pulling off her pants and that he proceeded to rape her.

The problem of women being hassled, or worse, isn't unique to New York City.

Dallas police arrested a convicted sex offender for having sex with a 14-year-old runaway in the Occupy Dallas camp.

After police located the missing girl, she told them about her encounter with Richard Wayne Armstrong, 24.

"She gave us information she had sexual relations with a person. She could only a give nickname," said Cheryl Scott, deputy chief of the special investigations division.

Scott said the girl had told Armstrong and other occupiers that she was 19-years-old.

Armstrong is being held on felony charges of failure to register as a sex offender and sexual assault of a minor. The girl is in the custody of Child Protective Services, Scott said.

On Oct. 15, police responded to a delayed report of a sexual assault at Occupy Cleveland.

Reports of harassment and women made to feel uncomfortable are also popping up on Occupy Wall Street's message board.

Burke said although the group has increased security measures, it is important that people remain vigilant.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Whales Almost Clobber Surfer: Real or Fake?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) -- A Santa Cruz surfer took whale watching to the extreme when she paddled far from the beach and almost got hit by two humpback whales in the middle of a feeding frenzy.

Barb Roettger, a massage therapist, recorded the close encounter with a telephoto lens from her kayak.

“I was there to see whales,” Roettger told ABC News. “They were in a feeding frenzy.”

Roettger said she had focused her camera on the surfer for one specific reason.

“She wasn’t wearing a wetsuit and the water was very cold,” Roettger said.

After the whales vanished back into the deep, Roettger spoke to the girl.

“I think she was in shock,” she said.

In recent months, Roettger said, the whales have had a few close calls with boats and people.

Some people online believe the video is a fake.

Click here to see the video

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Congress Votes to Subpoena White House over Solyndra Scandal

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee voted Thursday along partisan lines to subpoena White House documents related to Solyndra, the politically connected solar company and flagship of the Obama administration's green energy program that received a half-billion dollar, taxpayer-funded federal loan before going bankrupt.

The vote in the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee split along party lines, 14 to 9. The Republican majority said the subpoenas were necessary because the Obama administration had delayed or rebuffed requests for documents related to the California solar panel maker. The Democratic minority said the White House has been cooperating.

The Obama administration had selected Solyndra as the first to receive a loan under an Energy Department program designed to provide government support to companies that would create jobs while generating energy from cleaner sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear. President Obama personally visited the Solyndra complex in May of last year, hailing it as a leader in this emerging field -- this apparently despite the fact that the company's books were already in trouble.

In August, Solyndra abruptly shut its doors, laying off 1,100 workers. Within days, it had declared bankruptcy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee has held two hearings intending to unwind the deal and understand how signs of Solyndra's financial trouble had been overlooked by the Department of Energy.

A week after Solyndra's bankruptcy filing, Federal agents searched the company's California headquarters, and visited the homes of Harrison, company founder Chris Gronet, and a former executive.

In March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, began reporting on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient.

Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, has told ABC News that politics never entered the decision to grant the loan, or restructure it earlier this year. LaVera said the department decided it was worth trying to redo the terms to try and salvage the government's initial investment.

"[P]olitical or optical considerations took a backseat to putting the company and its workers in a better position to succeed and repay the loan," he said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has sought information from Solyndra's prime investors -- including Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser, a bundler of campaign contributions to the president in 2008.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio