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Friday
Jul152011

Casey Anthony May Be Grilled by Lawyer for Defamation

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The lawyers for the real Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez are suing Casey Anthony for defamation, but they intend to grill the woman acquitted of killing her daughter during her civil deposition because "America wants justice."

Fernandez-Gonzalez's lawyers have asked the court to compel Anthony to sit for a deposition because they fear that once she leaves jail on Sunday that she will "leave the jurisdiction of this court, disguise herself, change her name, etc., making it impossible to ever depose her."

Fernandez-Gonzalez is suing Anthony for using her name when she told Orlando, Florida police that her 2-year-old daughter Caylee was stolen by a babysitter and gave police her name.  Anthony stuck to that lie for three years before her lawyer told the court at the opening of her murder trial that the babysitter never existed and that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool.

John Morgan, the lawyer for Fernandez-Gonzalez, intends to demonstrate the hardship that Anthony allegedly caused his client, who is a 42-year-old mother of six.  He also intends to interrogate Anthony about Caylee's death.

"The first question I'm going to ask her is, 'Tell us the last time you saw Caylee.'  The second is, 'Tell us when you found out she was dead," Morgan told ABC News.

The lawyer dismissed anticipated objections from Anthony's lawyers that these questions are not relevant to Fernandez-Gonzalez's legal claims.

"Everything about the death of the child is not only relevant, it's very relevant.  It's the essence of the case," Morgan said.

Morgan believes he is acting on behalf of those people in the country who are outraged by Anthony's not guilty verdict.

"America wants justice.  They want to make [Casey Anthony] sit down and tell them what happened," Morgan said.

"When Zenaida first came to me, we never thought Casey would see the light of day again," Morgan said.  "It was never about money in the beginning.  Now, it's about accountability and responsibility."

Lawyers for the two sides are scheduled to meet Friday to work out details of the deposition, and Anthony is scheduled to be deposed next Tuesday.  A trial is scheduled for next February.

Anthony's lawyers filed a brief Thursday asking that both hearings be cancelled because Casey Anthony, 25, has suffered "trauma" from her six-week murder trial.  They also said that having the dates and locations of her deposition made public put her "safety in jeopardy" because of the "numerous threats that have already been made against her."

If forced to be deposed, her lawyers added, she will plead the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer on the grounds that she would incriminate herself.

Besides the Fernandez-Gonzalez lawsuit, Anthony also faces a suit for $100,000 by EquuSearch, the volunteer search organization that hunted for Caylee after being assured by Anthony that her daughter was alive and pleading with them to help find Caylee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Two Jets Clip One Another at Logan Airport

Scott E. MacFarlane(BOSTON) -- A pair of commercial passenger planes clipped each other while taxiing on runways at Boston's Logan International Airport, possibly injuring one person.

Both planes suffered damage in the 7:30 p.m. incident, according to Massport, an agency that manages Logan Airport.

"While taxiing out for departure, the wing from Flight 266 from Boston to Amsterdam made contact with the vertical stabilizer of ASA Flight 4904, also on departure from Boston to Raleigh-Durham, [N.C.]," Delta Air Lines said in a prepared statement Thursday evening.

"Flight 266 returned to the gate and passengers deplaned without incident," the statement continued. "Passengers on ASA Flight 4904 deplaned and were transported by bus to the terminal. Both aircraft have been removed from service for inspections and passengers are currently being reacommodated on other aircraft."

A passenger was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons, a Massport official said. One person involved in the incident complained of neck pain, according to ABC News Radio affiliate WBZ-AM.

There were 204 passengers and 11 crew on the Delta 767, according to ABC News Boston affiliate WCVB. There were 74 passengers and 3 crew members on the second plane, a flight chartered by Delta, according to WCVB.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Feds Will Probe Whether News Corp. Hacked 9/11 Victims' Phones

PRNewsFoto/Verizon Wireless(NEW YORK) -- Under pressure from members of Congress and after numerous media inquiries as well as the vocal concerns of victims' relatives, the FBI in New York has opened a preliminary probe into whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. tried to hack the phones of British citizens who died in the 9/11 attacks.

The inquiry is likely to review U.S. phone records of the British victims and could also examine telephone company records in the UK if British authorities cooperate.

The probe will be led by the FBI's New York field office along with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan.

There's no evidence such hacking occurred, but investigators came under pressure from members of Congress, who had requested they take a look. Other media companies and families of the 9/11 victims also inquired after reading an article that mentioned the possibility that News Corp. may have tried to hack the phones.

The article appeared in a newspaper that competes with a News Corp. paper in England. Murdoch's News Corp. owns the Fox News Channel, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, as well as numerous media properties in the UK.

The item cited an alleged attempt by an unnamed Murdoch employee to bribe or pay an unnamed former police officer to hack the phones and noted that the alleged attempt was unsuccessful.

Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y., said in a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller demanding an investigation that it would be "revolting" if members of the media had attempted to bribe an official in the service of "yellow journalism."

Department of Justice officials underscored that the investigation is a preliminary inquiry into any possible wrongdoing.

Earlier this month a rival UK newspaper reported that News Corp.'s News of the World had hacked into the phone of a teenage murder victim in 2002 and may have interfered with an investigation into her disappearance.

News Corp. has also been accused of attempting to hack the phones of the families of dead soldiers, former English Prime Minister Gordon Brown and terror victims.

In an interview published on The Wall Street Journal's website Thursday, Murdoch said that News Corp. would establish a committee to investigate "every charge of improper conduct."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

9/11 Families, Lawmakers Aim for Largest Service Day in History

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Capitol Hill Thursday, lawmakers and family members of victims of the 9/11 tragedy came together to kick off what they hope will be the single largest day of charitable service in U.S. history. This initiative, in observance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, aims to secure at least one million acts of service in tribute to 9/11 victims.

Senator Charles Schumer, the senior Democratic senator from New York, told the crowd that there is “no greater thing for our country than to do a day of service.” There is “no more fitting memorial,” he said.

Organizers expect this year's 9/11 Day Observance to be the single largest day of service and charitable activity in United States history, with at least one million Americans paying tribute through service.

As part of the gathering Thursday, members of Congress and family members of 9/11 victims stitched a flag that was destroyed in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11. The flag, which is on a nationwide tour to be restored, has had stitching by tornado survivors in Greensburg, Kan., survivors of the shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas, by World War II veterans on the deck of the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor, and by the family members of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The flag also has woven into it a piece of the flag that Abraham Lincoln was laid on when he was shot at Ford’s Theater.

Jeff Parness, a leader in the effort to restore the flag, told the assembled audience that this is “what America is all about.” He said this flag “tells the story of 9/11 but also of 9/12,” a nation able to come together and rebuild from tragedy.

When complete, the National 9/11 flag will become a part of the collection of the National September 11 Memorial Museum being built at the World Trade Center area.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Twelve-Year-Old Sentenced for Cyberstalking Classmate

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- A 12-year-old Washington girl was sentenced on Wednesday to probation and community service for a cyberstalking incident in which she and another 11-year-old girl doctored the Facebook account of a classmate, also 12 years old, with explicit photos and solicitations for sex.

But the mother of the victim said she has "mixed feelings" about the sentencing of the girls who hacked her daughter's Facebook page. She isn't satisfied with the judge's ruling.

"We wrote a letter to the judge and we requested that she have no access to social media for the full term of her probation. The judge felt that it would be fine for her to be on with parental supervision," said Tara Cote of Issaquah, Wash.

The 12-year-old, who pleaded guilty and whose name has not been released, was charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing. She was sentenced to six months of probation and 20 hours of community service, along with mandatory adult supervision of all computer usage, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Cote said she wants the tween to have cyberbullying-specific therapy.

"Both girls went online and used social media to do damage and used it as a weapon. Regular therapy will not tell you how to not abuse the Internet," said Cote.

The King County attorney's office did not return a call from ABC News requesting comment.

The girl issued an apology in court.

"I just feel really bad because I know how it feels to be bullied and it's not a good feeling and she didn't deserve to be treated that way at all," the girl said through sniffles, according to ABC News affiliate KOMO.

If the conditions of the sentence are met, the charges will be dismissed. An 11-year-old girl was also charged earlier this month in connection with the case and ordered to do community service. If she completes the hours, the charges against her will also be dismissed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Dead Woman Found Naked, Bound at Historic Mansion

Stockbyte/Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(CORONADO, Calif.) -- Police are investigating the death of Rebecca Zahau, 32, who was found bound and naked at a multimillion-dollar, historic mansion in Coronado, Calif., where a six-year-old also suffered a severe head injury earlier in the week.

"This is a very bizarre death, there's no doubt about it," San Diego Sheriff's Capt. Tim Curran told reporters regarding Zahau's death.

Even so, police cannot say if these circumstances will lead to a criminal investigation.

"There are some very unique ways" people might kill themselves, Curran said. "If it was determined to be a suicide, people will do some very bizarre things."

Authorities discovered Zahau on Wednesday, July 13, after a house guest, Adam Shacknai, told police he found her with a rope around her neck hanging from a balcony off the main house.

When police arrived at the historic Spreckles Mansion, they found Zahau's body on the lawn in the backyard. Shacknai told them he had cut her down. He is thought to have been the only person home, and may have been the last person to see her alive, investigators said.

Since 2007, the mansion has belonged to Shacknai's brother, Jonah Shacknai, the multi-millionaire founder and CEO of Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation in Scottsdale, Ariz. Police said it may have been his summer home.

Zahau's hands were bound behind her back and her feet were bound, but her hands and feet did not appear ever to have been bound together, police said. Though Adam Shacknai said she was hanging from a rope, investigators did not disclose what kind of material bound her hands and feet.

The home's balcony, which lies outside of a bedroom, is about 10 to 15 feet from the ground. Police were not immediately aware how Zahau's body would have been anchored if, indeed, it had been hanging. If it was a suicide, it was unclear how Zahau could have hung herself while also binding her hands and feet.

Zahau's death caps an eventful week at the mansion.

On Monday morning, Coronado police received a call from a woman there requesting medical aid for a six-year-old boy believed to be the son of Jonah Shacknai's ex-wife. The child "had fallen from stairs and was not breathing and did not have a pulse," Coronado police chief Louis Scanlon said Thursday. Paramedics performed CPR and the boy was hospitalized.

"At this time, we have no information that would lead us to believe this is anything other than a tragic accident with the child," he said.

Police said they don't see any connection between Zahau's death and the boy's injuries.

In between the boy's accident and the discovery of Zahau's body, neighbors told ABC News affiliate KGTV, a loud party took place at the mansion on Tuesday night. However, police said Thursday they were not aware of any parties.

Investigators said there remains forensic work to be done, and they were awaiting the results of an autopsy from the San Diego medical examiner.

However, Curran said Thursday, there is "no information indicating this is anything more than an isolated incident in the city of Coronado."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

TSA Moves to Reduce Screening for Some Passengers

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The agency that has come under criticism for patting down the elderly and infants, says it is ready to try a new approach for some passengers.

The Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday a pilot program which it says will move towards “risk-based, intelligence driven” security screening.

TSA Spokesman Greg Soule told ABC News that this pilot is an effort to “focus more on passengers we know less about, and not focus our resources as much on passengers who are less of a risk.  However, there will continue to be an element of randomness and unpredictability.”

The pilot program will begin this fall, initially with Delta Airlines at its hubs in Atlanta and Detroit, and with American Airlines at its hubs in Dallas and Miami.  The airlines, working with the TSA, have identified frequent flyers, passengers who “who have an extensive travel history”, according to Soule.

The airlines will be contacting these passengers to ask if they want to participate in the pilot program. Those who agree will have an indication on their boarding pass that they are part of this program. When they’re traveling, they’ll be directed to a special security lane for expedited screening.

The TSA, for security reasons, would not say what kind of screening these passengers might be able to forgo. It’s unclear, for example, whether these travelers would be able to leave on their shoes, leave laptops in their cases, and bring through their water bottles. Also, TSA has made it clear that there are no guarantees that the passengers won’t be subject to full screening.

In a statement, TSA Administrator John Pistole said “TSA will continue to incorporate random and unpredictable screening measures throughout the airport and no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.”

Also eligible for the new program will those who are already in the Custom and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs. Those asked to participate will be U.S. citizens.

TSA says it plans to expand the program to other airports, and other airlines, including United, Southwest, JetBlue, USAirways, Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines.

Pistole said, “These improvements will enable our officers to focus their efforts on higher risk areas.” Enhancing identity-based screening is another common sense step in the right direction as we continue to strengthen overall security, and improve the passenger experience whenever possible.”

Right now, the TSA makes virtually no distinctions between passengers being screened. Ever former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld yesterday got a pat down at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Rumsfeld tweeted about it -- "It takes those of us with two titanium hips and a titanium shoulder a bit longer to get through TSA."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Judge Declares Mistrial in Roger Clemens Case

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A mistrial has been declared in the perjury case against former baseball star Roger Clemens, just days after the trial began.

The defense complained that prosecutors failed to follow a pretrial ruling to limit information about conversations fellow ballplayer Andy Pettitte had with his wife about the use of human growth hormone. Judge Reggie Walton halted proceedings Thursday, quickly accepted their concerns and declared a mistrial.

Clemens' defense team raised objections to prosecutors showing jurors extended parts of Roger Clemens' testimony on Feb. 13, 2008, which referenced conversations between Pettitte and his wife about use of human growth hormone.

Before a brief recess, Walton admonished prosecutors for not editing down portions of the testimony: "I made a ruling that statements that Mr. Pettitte made to his wife could not be admitted."

"This clearly runs afoul of my pre-trial rulings."  Walton told the prosecutors. "That testimony is not going to be relevant."

A new jury will now be called.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Obama Misstated Story about Mother's Health Care, New Book Says

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- During his 2008 presidential campaign and the fight for health care reform, President Obama often told the story of his mother Stanley Ann Dunham and how she spent the months before her death fighting with insurance companies who tried to deny her coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

That story is now being called into question by a new book which says Dunham in fact had health insurance when she died from ovarian cancer in 1995.

“My mother, when she got sick with ovarian cancer, she had just gotten a new job, and the insurance company was saying, ‘Well, maybe this is a pre-existing condition, so maybe we don't have to pay your medical bills.’ So I know what it's like to see a loved one suffer not just because they're sick, but because of a broken health care system. This is personal for me,” then-candidate Obama said at a March 2008 campaign event in Pennsylvania.

In A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, former New York Times reporter Janny Scott reveals that, although Obama claims Dunham was denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, she was actually only denied disability coverage.

The revelation is not being denied by the White House, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Dunham, an anthropologist, was working in Jakarta in 1994 when she began suffering from intense abdominal pains. At the time, she was working for the American company Development Alternatives, which provided her with health insurance.

An Indonesian doctor originally diagnosed Dunham with appendicitis and she debated going out of the country for an appendectomy. “‘You’ve got health insurance, that’s taken care of. We can cover the airfare. We can cover a few hundred dollars,'” Scott reports Dunham’s boss telling her at the time. Ultimately, Dunham stayed in Jakarta for the surgery.

In January 1995, an increasingly ill Dunham left Indonesia for Honolulu. Just days after her arrival, a gastroenterologist concluded her problem was not gastrointestinal and referred her to an oncologist who diagnosed her with third-stage uterine and ovarian cancer.

Shortly thereafter, she underwent a total hysterectomy and started a series of six monthly chemotherapy treatments. “In Honolulu, Ann pressed on gamely. According to her correspondence, Barry [Barack] helped her with insurance forms and letters in the immediate aftermath of her surgery,” Scott writes.

According to the book, however, Dunham’s insurance continued to cover her medical expenses when she was in Hawaii. “The hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month. To cover those charges as well as living expenses, she filed a separate claim under her employer’s disability insurance policy. That policy, however, contain a clause allowing the company to deny any claim related to a preexisting medical condition,” Scott explains.

CIGNA, Dunham’s insurer, investigated whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition and later denied her claim based on an earlier visit to a gynecologist. Dunham then informed CIGNA that she was turning the case over to “‘my son and attorney, Barack Obama.’"

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Los Angeles Gears Up for 'Carmaggedon'

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- "Carmaggedon" is almost here -- and Los Angeles is on pins and needles.

The much-ballyhooed shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of the key 405 freeway -- used on a typical weekend by half a million motorists -- starts at midnight Friday and continues until early Monday. In a city where walking is considered weird and public transportation an afterthought, the closure has sparked anxiety and generated huge publicity.

It has its own Facebook page, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, and Twitter-savvy celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Tom Hanks have tweeted to warn drivers to stay home.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the closure area, has a countdown clock on his website anticipating the shutdown to the second. He is planning on spending much of the weekend in the emergency operations center downtown. "I think the preparation has gone extremely well," he said. "Most people understand that the guaranteed way to avoid aggravation is to not be in your car."

He said LA residents are organizing block parties and barbecues and are stocking up on DVDs for a weekend staycation. "Everybody's going to do it their own way."

The 53-hour closure -- which will happen again in 11 months -- is part of a $1 billion highway improvement project that involves constructing a northbound carpool lane and reconstructing the Mulholland Bridge.

Officials have been grave about the prospect of misery ahead. "There's gridlock on the 405 virtually any time of the day, but particularly during the rush hour, and if you think it's bad now, let me just make something absolutely clear: On July 16 and 17, it will be an absolute nightmare," LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a recent press conference.

But on Wednesday, Yaroslavsky was more upbeat. "Now it's up to the people," he said, adding: "I have confidence in Los Angeles motorists."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio