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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Thursday
Feb232012

Accused NYC Subway Terrorist to Face Anonymous Jury

iStockphotos/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In an unusual legal move, when a New York City man goes on trial this spring for allegedly plotting to detonate explosives in the subway, it will be an anonymous jury that determines his fate.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Dearie sided with prosecutors who argued for an anonymous jury because the charges against Adis Medunjanin, "are of the highest possible seriousness."

"Given the nature of the allegations, the involvement of al Qaeda, a foreign terrorist organization with global reach and a history of targeting civilians in New York City, and the virtual certainty of substantial media and public attention, a fair trial requires empanelling an anonymous jury," prosecutors said in court papers.

Medunjanin is accused of being a willing suicide bomber and partnering with convicted terrorist Najibullah Zazi and others to detonate homemade explosives in the subway system in September 2009.

In the case of an anonymous jury, any identifying information for the jurors is withheld from the public and they are only referred to by an assigned number -- a rare but not unheard of judicial move in sensitive, high-profile cases.

Court records say Medunjanin traveled to Pakistan, "with the goal of joining the Taliban and fighting violent jihad against the United States and coalition troops in Afghanistan." Instead, court records say, Medunjanin returned to the U.S. intent on conducting a suicide attack.

Zazi and co-defendant Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and are expected to testify against Medunjanin, their one time high school friend, at trial, which is scheduled to begin in April in Brooklyn.

"One need not conjure up worst-case scenarios to observe that even the mere possibility that the defendant's co-conspirators in al Qaeda, or their sympathizers, might threaten the judicial process in this case is a valid concern," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bitkower.

Defense attorneys called the prosecution argument "inadequate" and said there was no compelling reason to seek an anonymous jury.

"Here, the government does nothing more than invoke the specter of al Qaeda and terrorism as a justification for the extreme steps of empanelling and partially sequestering an anonymous jury," attorney Robert Gottlieb said.

Judge Dearie did not immediately decide whether to also order U.S. marshals to escort jurors between their homes and the courthouse.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Van Containing Unmarked ATM Keys Stolen in Connecticut

FIle photo. Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(BRIDGEPORT, Conn.) -- A van containing keys to ATMs across Connecticut has been stolen, leading police to issue a lookout warning.

The unmarked van was stolen from the train station in Bridgeport, Conn. on Wednesday. The vehicle, a white 2010 Ford E-150 van, belonged to workers installing an ATM at the train station, according to ABC News Connecticut affiliate WTNH.

The van contained unmarked keys, which are used to access other ATMs throughout the Connecticut.

Authorities said that they believe a large amount of cash was inside the van at the time it was stolen, the Connecticut Post reported. Later police said there was no money in the van at the time.

Keys to the van were reportedly not in the ignition at the time of the theft.

Police in Bridgeport have now issued a warning to other police departments to be on the lookout for a stolen van.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Juror on George Huguely Verdict: We 'Believe Justice Was Served'

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A jury recommended Wednesday that a judge sentence George Huguely V to 26 years in prison just hours after finding him guilty of second-degree murder in the beating death of his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love, at the University of Virginia.

The jury recommended 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and one year for a grand larceny conviction resulting from an allegation that Huguley stole Love's laptop.

Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire is scheduled to formally sentence Huguely, 24, on April 16.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Md., had his head down in court as the sentence recommendation was announced.

The Charlottesville, Va., jury of five women and seven men reached its guilty verdicts after nine hours behind closed doors.  The sentencing recommendation came about three hours later.

Huguely was accused of killing Love in a drunken rage in 2010 just weeks before she was to graduate from the University of Virginia.  Both Huguely and Love were star lacrosse players on the university's elite teams.

Two jurors gave ABC News their rationale for the verdict on their way out of the courthouse.

"We worked hard to come to a fair, just verdict," one juror said.  "We had a good team -- educated, well-informed people.  We all really believe justice was served.  Everyone felt good about our decision."

The juror said there did not appear to be "premeditation," so they could not convict Huguely on the first-degree murder charge.

Members of the Huguely family were visibly upset as they left the courthouse.  A little girl, one of Huguely's cousins, was crying hysterically and saying, "That's too much."

Huguely's mother was kept protected on the inside of the group and Huguely family members did not speak to the media.

Huguely's attorney, Francis McQ. Lawrence, said the defense was "disappointed with this verdict but proud to represent George over the years."

"He has the support of a loving family, has displayed amazing resilience and courage, is hopeful and spiritual, and we look forward to some corrections on what happened here tonight," Lawrence said.

Sharon and Lexie Love, Yeardley Love's mother and sister, left the courthouse from a side exit and also did not speak to the media, though they released a written statement after the sentencing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Seattle Area Girl in Critical Condition After Classroom Shooting

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- A Seattle area third-grader is in critical condition Thursday after being shot in the abdomen when a gun went off in her classroom.

Amina Bowman, 8, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after the gun discharged from another student’s backpack around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to police in Bremerton, Wash.  Upon arrival, she was quickly rushed into surgery, ABC News' Seattle affiliate KOMO reported.

Armin Jahr Elementary School was put into immediate lockdown after the incident.

“She had the kids sit, get underneath their desks and then made sure that the kids were accounted for,” MaryLou Tucker, a parent of a student at the school, said of the teacher.

Students streamed from the school into the arms of worried parents minutes after the incident.

A friend says Bowman’s mother was in disbelief when the school called.

“She’s a sweet little girl, and I don’t know what to do,” Lori Morsette told ABC News. “I’m trying to be supportive for my friends, and I’m trying to be there for them.  Right now, they’re at the hospital.”

Although it’s still unclear how the third-grader obtained a gun, the boy was taken into custody and booked into Kitsap County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, bringing a weapon to school and assault, according to Bremerton police.

“We do have the other student and the weapon with us at this time,” Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton Police Department told ABC News.

The gun was found inside the classroom as angry parents outside questioned how something like this could even happen.

Bremerton schools spokesman Patty Glaser said that the school will reopen on Thursday, and that three counselors will talk to teachers, students and parents.

“Students will continue to be safe at school, school will continue tomorrow, we will have grief counselors on site,” Glaser said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Georgia Engineer Murder Trial: Widow Calls Her Boss 'Delusional'

Dunwoody Police Dept(ATLANTA) -- The General Electric worker whose former boss and alleged lover admits he killed her husband said on Wednesday the ex-boss was, "a self-proclaimed delusional individual" who fooled her using "masterful manipulation."

Testifying at Hemy Neuman's murder trial in Atlanta, his former employee, Andrea Sneiderman, described the former high-level GE operations manager as a "predator."

"Every time we spoke, it was like he was my best friend. Every time we had a verbal conversation, 'Oh, I understand.  I respect your marriage,'" Sneiderman said of Neuman.  "But what he liked to do was jab at my marriage.  But then, 'I respect you.  You're a good mother.'  That was his mode of operation."

Neuman, 48, is charged with shooting and killing Sneiderman's husband, Rusty Sneiderman, 36, in the parking lot of the Sneidermans' son's preschool in November 2010.

Neuman has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.  His defense claims he and Andrea Sneiderman were involved in a hot-and-cold affair when she worked for him at General Electric. Sneiderman denies any affair.

Neither the defense nor the prosecution denies that Neuman pulled the trigger and killed Sneiderman, but they tell divergent stories of what led to the killing.

Neuman's defense attorney, Doug Peters, said in his opening statements that Neuman believed he had been visited by an angel resembling Olivia Newton-John and a demon resembling Barry White, who told him that Sneiderman's children were Neuman's and that he needed to protect them by killing Rusty Sneiderman.

The prosecution painted Neuman as a calculating killer who planned Sneiderman's shooting for months -- going to gun shows, taking a gun safety course, going to target practice, renting a car for the shooting and wearing a disguise.

Sneiderman told the court that after Neuman read her a poem at dinner during a business trip, she realized that, "he had deeper feelings for me than just friends."

"None of those feelings were ever returned and I made myself completely clear where I stood," Sneiderman said. "I did nothing but try to help Hemy Neuman -- suggested he get counseling in his marriage, not move out of his home.  I would do that for any friend."

"I remember walking out of that dinner like we were best buddies," she said. "It was a masterful manipulation."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Cop Charged With Stealing from Office Refrigerator

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A Houston area cop nabbed in a sting operation will be in court Thursday to face theft charges -- for stealing from the office fridge.

Kevin Yang, an officer in Deer Park, Texas, was busted after complaints that lunches, drinks and 60 pounds of deer sausage had disappeared from the officers' shared fridge started piling on the desk of his boss, Deer Park Police Chief Greg Griggs, ABC News affiliate KTRK reported.

Griggs approved a sting operation, setting up a hidden camera above the fridge and filling it with bait food -- Monster energy drinks and sandwiches -- in order to nab the lunch leech.

According to police, the video, released to the public by the department, caught Yang in the act pulling one of the unopened Monster energy drinks, clearly marked with the initials of one of the department's detectives, out of the break room refrigerator on Nov. 19.

When confronted with the evidence, Yang told investigators he was cleaning the office fridge.

Yang was allegedly caught again on camera Nov. 22 taking a sandwich, again marked with a detective's initials, and then again on Nov. 26 and Nov. 27, each time pulling out a drink marked with initials not his own, police said.

In addition to the misdemeanor charge of theft, Yang was hit with a 30-day unpaid suspension that began on Tuesday and could cost him as much as $4,500 in lost wages. He will be able to return to work as an officer because the charge is below a class B offense.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

Accused ‘WikiLeaker’ Bradley Manning Facing Arraignment

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesUPDATE: Private First Class Bradley Manning, accused of having provided hundreds of thousands of classified military documents and State Department cables to WikiLeaks, deferred entering a plea at his arraignment Thursday.

(FORT MEADE, Md.) -- Accused “WikiLeaker” Bradley Manning’s arraignment is set to get underway Thursday in Maryland.

The formal presentation of charges comes after December’s week-long, pre-trial hearing in which the investigating officer who presided recommended that Manning face a military court, which was approved by Army Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington of the Military District of Washington.

Pfc. Manning is accused of providing online publisher WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified military action reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 260,000 classified State Department cables when he served as an Army intelligence analyst in Baghdad in late 2009 to early 2010.

Manning will hear the 22 charges against him, including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, stealing public property or records, and transmitting defense information.

His lawyers have said he was a troubled soldier who should have never been given access to classified information.

Aiding the enemy is a capital offense punishable by death, but Army prosecutors have said they will instead pursue life in prison if the 24-year-old Manning is convicted.

Manning could also face a reduction in rank to the lowest enlisted pay grade, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge.

He will be allowed to enter a plea Thursday to the charges against him. The arraignment offers the possibility of a plea deal, although there has been no indication that such an plan is in the works.

A trial date has yet to be set.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb222012

Jury Finds George Huguely Guilty of Second Degree Murder 

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A jury found George Huguely V guilty Wednesday of second-degree murder and grand larceny in the beating death of his ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love.

The Charlottesville, Va., jury of five women and seven men reached their verdict after nine hours behind closed doors.

As the verdict was announced Huguely barely reacted, putting his hands to his face a few times near his chin. He looked over briefly at his family and friends in the front three rows of the courtroom.

Huguely, 24, was charged with killing Love in a drunken rage in 2010 just weeks before she was to graduate from the University of Virginia.

Wednesday the jury began hearing testimony immediately and subsequently recommended that Huguely receive a prison sentence of 26 years. The jury recommended 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and one year for a grand larceny conviction resulting from an allegation that Huguley stole Love's laptop.

Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire is scheduled to formally sentence Huguely on April 16.

The family of Yeardley Love released the following statement following Huguely's sentencing:

"We dread looking back on the events of May 3, 2010 and pray for the strength to get through each day.

Time has not made us miss Yeardley any less, in fact quite the opposite.

It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize that she is no longer here. Yeardley's contagious smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world but we know that heaven has an angel like no other.

We will continue to keep her spirit alive by performing works of kindness in her name.

We would like to thank the Commonwealth and particularly Dave Chapman for his tireless efforts on our behalf.

Our hearts burst with pride when we think of Yeardley's accomplishments but our hearts melt when we remember her kindness and grace.

We have received letters from so many people telling us stories of her many acts of kindness. Intelligence and athletic ability are God given talents.

Kindness and compassion are choices ... choices that Yeardley made every day without a second thought. We'd like to thank everyone for their kindness and respect of our privacy during such a difficult time."

Sharon & Lexie Love

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb222012

Federal Judge in California Strikes Down Key Provision of DOMA

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A federal judge in California Wednesday night struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as applied to a federal employee who sought benefits for her same-sex spouse.

While this is not the first time a federal court has struck down a provision of DOMA, it is the first ruling to come since the Obama administration determined it would no longer defend the federal law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Lawyers hired by the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives are now defending the law in court.

Karen Golinski, a lesbian woman married to her spouse under California law, brought the suit after she was unable to secure federal health benefits for her same-sex spouse.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White said, “In this matter, the court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse.”

Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which represented Golinski, praised the ruling.

“We are thrilled,” said John Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal. “This is a grand slam for us. Judge White agreed that sexual orientation discrimination should be given heightened judicial scrutiny and there is not even a rational justification for DOMA’s discrimination. Courts should regard with suspicion government discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb222012

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Stolen Valor Act

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Maj. David McCombs, a U.S. Marine who has served four tours overseas, stood out in the cold early Wednesday morning waiting for one of the few public seats in the Supreme Court hearing room.

McCombs came to the court to hear a case challenging the Stolen Valor Act, a law that makes it a crime to lie about receiving military awards.

"The medal of honor is the highest medal that can be awarded," said McCombs. "I believe the medal itself represents the highest sacrifice someone can pay. To lie about such an honor is a disgrace."

But some high court justices struggled with what Justice Anthony Kennedy called the "slippery slope problem."

Kennedy asked, for instance, about a lie concerning a college degree. Elena Kagan wondered about a law that could be passed to ban lies about extramarital affairs.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., "Where do you stop? I mean, there are many things that people know about themselves that are objectively verifiable where Congress would have an interest in protecting."

The law is being challenged in court by Xavier Alvarez, who, while serving as a public official in California, introduced himself to an audience by saying, "I'm a retired Marine for 25 years. I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor."

Alvarez had never even served in the military.

As one of the first people prosecuted under the law, he was sentenced to three years' probation, a $5,000 fine and community service.

Inside court, Alvarez's federal public defender, Jonathan D. Libby, acknowledged to the justices that his client is a liar. But he said the Stolen Valor Act goes too far and violates the First Amendment.

"The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes pure speech in the form of bare falsity, a mere telling of a lie," Libby said. "It doesn't matter whether the lie was told in a public meeting or in a private conversation with a friend or family member."

The government argued that the law fits into a narrow category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment.

Verrilli said the law "regulates a carefully limited and narrowly drawn category of calculated factual falsehoods. It advances a legitimate, substantial, indeed compelling governmental interest, and it chills no speech."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor focused on the harm that a lie about military awards might cause.

"You can't really believe that a war veteran thinks less of the medal that he or she receives because someone's claiming fraudulently that they got one," she told Verrilli. "I'm not minimizing it. I, too, take offense when people make these kinds of claims, but I take offense when someone I'm dating makes a claim that's not true."

Verrilli said the statute is as "narrow as you can get" and stressed the importance of protecting the honor system.

"What I think with respect to the government's interest here, and why there is a harm to that interest, is that the point of these medals is that it's a big deal," he said.

"The honor system is about identifying the attributes, the essence, of what we want in our servicemen and women -- courage, sacrifice, love of country, willingness to put your life on the line for your comrades."

Justice Antonin Scalia expressed support for the law.

"When Congress passed this legislation, I assume it did so because it thought that the value of the awards that these courageous members of the armed forces were receiving was being demeaned and diminished."

Justice Samuel Alito asked why a lie should receive First Amendment protection.

"Do you really think that there is First Amendment value in a bald-faced lie about a purely factual statement that a person makes about himself because that person would like to create a particular persona?" he asked.

"Yes, your honor," Libby said, "so long as it doesn't cause imminent harm to another person or imminent harm to a government function."

A lower court ruled in favor of Alvarez, saying that while society would be "better off if Alvarez would stop spreading worthless, ridiculous and offensive untruths," the law was "unconstitutionally applied to make a criminal out of a man who was proven to be nothing more than a liar."

The case should be decided by the spring.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio