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Thursday
Apr042013

Fifth Graders Charged with Murder Conspiracy Are 'Danger to Others'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(COLVILLE, Wash.) -- A Washington prosecutor who is charging two boys aged 10 and 11 with conspiracy to commit murder concedes that it is "very rare" to try someone so young, but said the felony charges were necessary because the boys' crime was premeditated and experts determined they were "a danger to others."

The fifth graders from Colville, Wash., were arrested in February, and a Steven County Superior Court judge ruled recently that the boys are competent to stand trial on murder conspiracy charges, witness tampering and juvenile possession of a firearm.

The boys allegedly plotted to shoot and stab a girl in their class because she was "really annoying," according to court documents.

Police noted in their report that the boys "did not display any emotion or remorse during the interview." When asked if he knew what he was going to do was dangerous, wrong and unlawful, the 10-year-old replied, "Yes, I just want her dead."

The boys said there were other students they were targeting, even providing officials with six additional names.

"I was a defense attorney for about 14 years in North Carolina and have been a prosecutor for about 12 years here in the state of Washington and I'm not aware of other cases like this," Stevens County prosecutor Tim Rasmussen told ABC News. "I don't know that it's absolutely unique, but it's certainly very rare."

Rasmussen also has no qualms about the prosecution.

Referring to psychologists who examined the boys, Rasmussen said, "Both of these professionals believed that the boys presented a danger to other people and that was an important feature for the judge's decision."

The judge found that both boys had capacity to understand right from wrong and cleared the way for juvenile court. They remain in custody with a bond of $100,000 for each boy.

"We are very thankful that nobody was harmed," Rasmussen said. "But for the courage of a fourth grader to tell a teacher that he had seen a knife, this plot would have been carried out."

"As to why children do this, I wish I knew. It is very troubling. It's very scary," he said. "I don't have an explanation and the explanation that the boys gave for why they had planned to do this is entirely inadequate."

Defense attorneys Dee Hokom and Don Richter did not respond to requests for comment.

On Feb. 7, a Colville police officer responded to Colville Elementary School where a fourth grader had alerted a school employee that another student had a knife.

School officials searched the backpacks of the student and his friend who was with him and they found a knife, an ammunition clip and a "functioning" .45 caliber Remington 1911 semi-automatic handgun in the 10-year-old's bag, according to court documents.

When a staff member asked the boy why he brought a gun to school, the said that he and his friend were going to "get" a female student identified as "S.L.T." in court documents. When the staffer asked what he meant, he said they "were going to get S.L.T. away from the school and do her in."

The 11-year-old stated that he was going to be the "knifer" and his friend was going to be the "shooter." A third friend was aware of the plot, but they planned to give him $80 to keep it a secret.

The 11-year-old told the administrator that they were planning on killing the girl "because she was really annoying," according to court documents.

"[The 11-year-old] stated that he had been friends with her [S.L.T.] for several months but that he hated her now," the filing said. "He also indicated that S.L.T. had recently become rude and would pick on him."

The younger boy said that he had been in a short "dating relationship" with the girl they were targeting, but would not go into any details, according to the court filing.

The younger boy told police that they had taken the gun from his older brother's room and that his brother had taken it from their dead grandfather's home a few months before.

While the boys were waiting to be taken to a juvenile detention center, the older boy allegedly said to the younger, "If I find out who told them about our weapons I'm going to kill them. I don't care, when I get out of jail I'm going to come back and kill them."

The boys' names are not being used because of their young ages.

In the state of Washington, a child under the age of 8 is not capable of being charged with a crime because they don't have the capacity to comprehend things and have criminal intent. From ages 8 to 11, that presumption of no capacity exists but can be overcome if the state can provide evidence that proves otherwise.

In this case, the court looked at whether the boys understood the consequences of the act and determined they understood the consequences of what they planned and tried to keep it secret.

If convicted, the boys face a maximum guideline sentence time of about two and a half years, Rasmussen said. However, if the judge finds that the guideline sentence is unjust he can potentially decrease or increase it. Confinement until the age of 21 is the maximum.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Exonerated Football Player Brian Banks Signed by Atlanta Falcons

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- At 17, Brian Banks had what high school juniors dream of. Ranked 11th nationwide as middle linebacker, the Californian had committed to play football at the University of Southern California after a series of offers from other Division 1 schools.

All of that went away the day he was wrongfully convicted of rape.

Now, at age 27, after spending five years in prison, five on probation and receiving an exoneration, Banks revived his dream and signed on to the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday.

“I can’t believe this is happening. It’s surreal,” he said in a conference call to Atlanta and national media shortly after signing his contract. “Aside from getting my life back and my freedom back, this is the biggest accomplishment of my life. But it is also just the beginning.”

In 2002, Banks was accused by a friend of rape and kidnapping. After waiting a year to stand trial and despite a lack of DNA evidence, he pleaded no contest in order to avoid a possible 41-year sentence. The plea deal resulted in five years behind bars.

After he was released from jail in 2007 at the age of 22, he was placed on probation. The restrictions outlined that he had to register as a sex offender, could not live within 2,000 feet from any school or park, and he had to keep a GPS device around his ankle to ensure that he did not leave the state.

 

One day, he received a friend request on Facebook from the woman who had started it all.

“She was hoping that we could allow bygones to be bygones,” Banks told 60 Minutes.

Upon meeting with her twice, he and a private detective were able to tape a retraction in which she stated, “No, he did not rape me.”

On May 24, 2012, he was exonerated by the same judge who put him behind bars nine years earlier.

Two weeks later he got a call from Jay Glazer, a trainer, the owner of MMAthletics, and a Fox Sports NFL insider.

“I said, ‘Let’s get your butt into a gym tomorrow,’” Glazer said to ABC News. “Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life, so let’s get going.”

Banks had let go of his football aspirations while he was incarcerated in order to focus on what was ahead of him in prison.

“Football was the last thing on mind and it wasn’t until a few months before I was actually being released from prison that I thought about possibly trying to play football again,” Banks told reporters Wednesday.

“He had a lot of room to make up,” Glazer said. “I just tried to convince him that he had already pushed himself way more than we could push him physically. If being incarcerated for something he didn’t do couldn’t break him, then nothing we could ever do to him on the field or in the training room could break him.”

Eventually, his hard work began to deliver results and he was invited to participate in the Seattle Seahawks’ and San Francisco 49ers’ minicamps. He also worked out with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers before signing on to play for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (UFL).

Shortly before the start of the 2012-2013 season, the Falcons invited him to try out.

“He had a great workout, but the timing was bad,” Glazer said. “But the Falcons gave me their word that they would sign him. Not then but soon.”

Eight months later, they kept their word.

“We’re putting together our roster and this isn’t a charity case,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the NFL Network. “This is a great, feel-good story, but it’s also one that we believe that he has a chance to come in there and compete.”

Wednesday’s signing is only the beginning of Banks achieving his dream. Now, he must prove his ability to receive a spot on the 53-man roster.

“I don’t expect any handouts or favoritism,” Banks said.  "I’m here to work like everybody else. The result of my hard work will be whatever they deem necessary. All I can do is do my best.”

“There’s still a long distance to go. He understands that. We understand that,” Dimitroff said.  "Given his character and his makeup and what he’s gone through…I think that speaks volumes to his perseverance  and his drive to continue to learn and grow.”

Glazer, while acknowledging the disadvantage that comes with Banks’ age and the uphill battle he has ahead, has unwavering faith.

"If there’s anybody who’s already bucked the odds it’s him,” he said. “Why not do it again?”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Georgia Teens Fed Up with Segregated Proms

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(ROCHELLE, Ga.) -- The U.S. Supreme Court deemed segregated public schools unconstitutional in 1954, but the spirit of that ruling appears to have been lost in time in the tiny south Georgia town of Rochelle.

Students and parents are once again organizing separate proms for the high school's black and white students.

"We're embarrassed; it's embarrassing," white high school senior Stephanie Sinnot told WGXA-TV, the ABC News affiliate in Macon, Ga.

So a biracial group of four best friends who attend Wilcox County High School have set out to change history, raising money to host an integrated prom in the town of nearly 1,200 people, about 51 percent of them white, 46 percent black, according to census figures.

Stephanie says she does everything with her three best friends, two of whom are black. "That's just kind of not right that we can't go to prom together," she said.

Senior Keela Bloodworth, another organizer of the integrated prom effort who's white, said her black friends wouldn't dare come to the other dance.

"They would probably have the police come out there and escort them off the premises," Bloodworth told WGXA.

It's not just the school prom that's segregated. Homecoming falls into the same pattern, featuring two separate dances. Senior Quanesha Wallace, a black student, was elected homecoming queen this year and a white student was voted homecoming king. But the two students attended separate homecoming dances.

The district hasn't paid for a prom in 30 years, leaving the planning up to student groups that are free to organize them as they wish, Wilcox County Schools Superintendent Steve Smith told ABC News.

Smith says that when the group of female students approached the Board of Education this time about hosting an integrated prom, the district applauded their idea and even passed a resolution advocating that all activities involving students be inclusive and non-discriminatory.

"I fully support these ladies, and I consider it an embarrassment to our schools and community that these events have been segregated," Smith said. "Skin color seems to be a much larger issue for the adults than the students, and my prayer is that this effort will be a huge step toward reconciling the wrongs of the past."

Although the school district has been supportive, it hasn't offered to pay for the integrated prom. The students have set up a Facebook page asking the public for donations, but the idea hasn't been well-received by everyone.

"I actually put up posters for the integrated prom and we've had people ripping them down at the school," Keela told WGXA.

Wilcox County High School isn't the only school in Georgia that holds segregated school dances. Nearby Taylor County High School held separate proms until recently, as have a number of other schools located in small rural counties.

The reasoning seems to be same in all the cases: The school districts stopped sponsoring proms and left it up to student groups, which decided to hold separate events.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Texas Governor Vows to 'Hunt Down' Prosecutors' Killers

Alex Wong/Getty Images(KAUFMAN COUNTY, Texas) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday vowed to hunt down and punish those responsible for killing two Dallas-area prosecutors, and doubled a reward to $200,000 for information that leads to a conviction.

There have been no arrests and few concrete leads in the shooting deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, who were killed last weekend in their home, or in the death of the county's assistant district attorney Mark Hasse, gunned down in January.

He told the perpetrators of the killings that they were on "notice." "We're going to hunt you down. We're going to punish you," Perry said. "We will not let this cower us. Texas is a law-and-order state and we will track down and punish those who have committed this crime."

The governor would not speculate on who might be responsible, saying it was "premature" to single out any group or individual. Investigators have said, however, they are focusing on links to Mexican drug cartels and a white supremacist prison gang known as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

Perry added an additional $100,000 of state funds for a reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers. Kaufman County had already offered its own $100,000 reward.

"At this time we're looking at everything available, every single avenue. We're not leaving any stone unturned," said Dallas FBI Special Agent in Charge Diego Rodriguez.

As state and local officials gathers for the McLellands' memorial Thursday, the county's new acting district attorney Brandi Fernandez vowed to continue McLelland and Hasse's work and continue to prosecute crimes in the county.

On Monday, following McLelland's death all of the employees in the prosecutor's office, "every single person showed up" to work and the deaths have not stopped the administration of justice in the county, she said.

Each prosecutor, she said, "takes an oath to serve community....We were unnerved a little bit....[But] every prosecutor agreed to uphold that oath."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Second Missing California Hiker Found Clinging to Cliff

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.) -- A teenage girl who has been lost in a California canyon since Sunday was found Thursday clinging to the side of a steep cliff and shouting for help, authorities said.

Kyndall Jack, 18, was located a day after her male companion, Nicholas Cendoya, had been found wandering and disoriented in Cleveland National Forest.

Rescue crews repelled to rescue Jack and she was airlifted to University of California -- Irvine hospital, where was being treated for severe dehydration, authorities said.

"The most important thing is that she has been found and Nicholas has been found and they are well," siad Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Jason Park.

Kyndall and Cendoya disappeared Easter Sunday while hiking near Trabuco Canyon, Calif.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Violent New York Gangs Taken Down with Help of Social Media

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Three rival gangs, some of New York's most violent, have been taken down at once. Authorities say they were able to do it because of social media.

Sixty-three alleged members of the Air It Out, True Money and Whoadey gangs have been accused of carrying out a "campaign of violence dating back to at least 2009," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said.

The gangs have been tied to three murders, nearly three dozen shootings and gun trafficking.

Police hardly needed wiretaps, cooperating witnesses, or other tools of the law enforcement trade because gang members bragged about their crimes on social media.

They "talked openly," police said, "on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Escaped Texas Inmates May be Armed After SUV Stolen

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(HOPKINS COUNTY, Texas) -- Two "extremely dangerous" inmates who have escaped from an East Texas jail are feared to have stolen a vehicle with a pistol inside, leading authorities to widen the search and put area schools in lockdown.

Brian Tucker, 44, and John King, 39, escaped from Hopkins County Jail in Sulphur Springs, Texas, around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. About 4 p.m. Wednesday a 2010 black Saturn Vue was stolen from outside a home in Sulpher Springs.

"Right now we're trying to diligently go after these guys," Hopkins County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Brad Cummings told ABC News. "We've received a lot of calls with sightings of this SUV. It has been a cold trail so far, by time officers get there, the vehicle is gone."

Tucker is facing capital murder charges for strangling a man with shoelaces and King is charged with evading arrest, burglary and substance possession. Cummings said King received a 40 year prison sentence earlier this week. Cummings said that inside the stolen Saturn was a .22 caliber derringer pistol, and if it was Tucker and King who stole the car, they are now armed.

"We are unaware if it's related to these two fugitives. It's possible that it might be them, or it might be something different," he said. "We're telling people to be cautious. If them, they're extremely dangerous.

The search for the two has become a multi-agency effort over the past few days. Cummings said that the manhunt involves the police forces for several surrounding counties, as well as Texas Rangers and U.S. marshals.

All schools are in lockdown in Hopkins County, he said.

Authorities believe the inmates escaped from a recreation yard during some allotted recreational time. They think the men squeezed through a part of the surrounding fencing when a guard assigned to watch them from a window looked away.

Their black and white prison suits were found on the railroad tracks behind the jail. Cummings said that underneath the prison suits, inmates wear a white undershirt and a white pair of boxers.

Tucker is 5-foot-7 and about 170 pounds. He has brown eyes, brown hair and multiple tattoos. King is 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. He has black hair, hazel eyes and multiple tattoos.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Motive in Killing of West Virginia Sheriff Unknown

West Virginia State Police(MINGO COUNTY, W. Va.) -- A West Virginia man, accused of killing a sheriff outside a county courthouse, will likely survive his injuries following a shootout with police, authorities said.

Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, is accused of shooting Sheriff Eugene Crum twice in the head while the officer sat in his car outside the Mingo County courthouse eating his lunch.

The sheriff had been cracking down on drug dealing in the area, but a motive for the shooting has not been determined or publicly released.

Deputies pursued Maynard to Delbarton, W.Va., where the suspect crashed his car and engaged in a gunfight with cops. He was "shot multiple times," according to West Virginia State Police spokesman Michael Baylous, before he was taken into custody and brought to a nearby hospital.

"At this point, it is believed that Mr. Maynard will survive his injuries," Baylous said.

Maynard has already been charged with attempted murder for the shootout with sheriff's deputies. He has not yet been charged with Crum's murder, but likely will be soon, officials said.

Crum's death follows several weeks in which law enforcement officers and prosecutors have been killed. Two prosecutors were gunned down in Kaufman County, Texas since January. Last month, Tom Clements, chief of the Colorado prison system, was killed in his home.

It is believed that Clements was killed by Evan Ebel, a parolee with links to the white-supremacist prison gang 211 Crew. Authorities in Texas are also working to determine if slain prosecutors Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland were killed by other white supremacists, although they are looking at other possible suspects as well.

"There is no known link" between Maynard and white supremacists or prison gangs, Baylous told ABC News.

West Virginia law prohibits the release of criminal records, but Maynard "was known to the West Virginia State Police," Baylous said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Fired Rutgers Coach Mike Rice to Receive $100K Bonus

Al Bello/Getty Images(PISCATAWAY, N.J.) -- Fired Rutgers coach Mike Rice is due a $100,000 bonus from the university for the 2012-2013 basketball season, a payout he would not have received had he been sacked when tapes of his tormenting his players came to light in November.

The New Jersey school fired Rice, 44, Wednesday amid a quickly unfolding scandal that began when ESPN's Outside the Lines aired footage of the coach's pushing players in the chest, grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard screaming obscenities and gay slurs at players, including "f--king f-ggot" and "fairy."

The sudden firing of Rice has also led to calls from faculty, lawmakers and activists for further investigation into the school, and possibly more firings of the school's top brass.

A group of 13 members of the university's staff have called for the ouster of the school president, Robert Barchi, Thursday morning, according to ESPN. In a statement released Wednesday, Barchi said he was informed of the video showing Rice's actions in November, but did not personally view the footage until Tuesday, the same day it aired on ESPN. Barchi announced Rice's firing Wednesday.

In a letter sent to Rutgers' Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees, the group of faculty members state that they are "demanding the immediate resignation of our President Robert Barchi, in light of his inexcusable handling of Coach Mike Rice's homophobic and misogynist abuse of our students."

ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas told ABC News that school Athletic Director Tim Pernetti's original decision to suspend the coach and Barchi's support of the decision leave them with further questions to answer.

"I can't think of an argument that would be compelling enough to justify a suspension and a fine when, ultimately, a dismissal was decided upon," Bilas said. "I don't think this is over for Tim Pernetti. I think the vast majority of administrators would have fired Mike Rice on the spot."

Pernetti was shown hours of video in late November by a former employee. He suspended Rice for three games a month later, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger-management classes. At the time, Pernetti didn't elaborate on the details of the suspension.

A call for a full investigation into harassment at the school has also come from State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Gay rights organization Garden State Equality is also calling for a full investigation into Rutgers' administrators, saying that they knew about this video and the anti-gay harassment for months and did nothing.

Rice apologized Wednesday to the players, the Rutgers administration, fans and his family.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr042013

Calif. Rescuers Focus on Missing Hiker After Partner Found Alive

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SANTA ANA, Calif.) -- Family and friends are sharing mixed emotions Thursday in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., after one of two missing teen hikers was found alive Wednesday night.

Nicholas Cendoya, 19, was located by another hiker, who was not a part of the search efforts, in a thick brush shortly before sundown, officials said.

Authorities have shifted their attention to the whereabouts of Kyndall Jack, 18.  She was with Cendoya hiking in Southern California's Cleveland National Forest when the pair went missing Sunday night.

The hiker who spotted Cendoya went for help and found firefighters on an unrelated mission nearby.  A helicopter brought Cendoya to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where he was listed in serious condition.

Cendoya was located about a half-mile south of where much of the search had focused.

"He is weak, severely dehydrated and slightly confused," Division Chief Kris Concepcion of the Orange County Fire Authority said.

Rescue crews worked through the night, scouring the rough terrain in hopes of finding Jack.

"We will be asking Nick, as he can give us information, then we will hopefully use that in searching for Kyndall," Concepcion added.

Those involved with the search efforts believe the favorable weather conditions could be working in Jack's favor.

"There have been cases where people have survived 78, 96 hours, even more than that," Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Jon Muir said.

Jack and Cendoya, both of Costa Mesa, Calif., called authorities Sunday night and told police they were lost and had run out of water while hiking in Trabuco Canyon.  They said they thought they were only about a mile from their car before their cellphone apparently died.  Police were unable to pinpoint their exact location.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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