Entries in Indiana (44)


American Taliban John Walker Lindh Challenges Prison Prayer Policies in Court 

TARIQ MAHMOOD/AFP/Getty Images(TERRE HAUTE, Ind.) -- John Walker Lindh, dubbed the American Taliban when he was captured at the beginning of the Afghan war, is suing prison officials for the right to pray five times a day with fellow Islamic inmates.

Lindh, 31, is expected to testify in an Indianapolis courtroom Monday regarding the ban on daily group prayers in prison.

Lindh is being held in the Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Ind., where he is serving a 20-year sentence for supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony.

"I am a Muslim and my religion requires that I perform five daily prayers in congregation. This is mandatory and not optional," Lindh wrote in a handwritten complaint to prison officials that was also filed in federal court.

A ban on daily group prayer was instituted in 2007 after Muslim inmates ignored a lockdown caused by a fire alarm, court documents stated. Inmates are free to pray in their individual cells.

Every Friday, Lindh and his fellow inmates in the specialized unit, are permitted to gather in the multipurpose room of the prison for the Jum'ah prayer service, which the Koran dictates must be done in a group, court documents stated.

The Communications Management Unit, which was established in 2006, has been referred to as "Guantanamo North." Inmates whose communications are considered "high risk" to the prison community and the public's security are housed in individual cells within the unit, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

Lindh's lawsuit offered a glimpse inside the unit, where communications between prisoners and their visitors are tightly monitored.

Inmates in the unit are "out of their cells for virtually the entire day and are allowed to engage in a whole variety of congregate activities," court documents stated. Group prayer, however, is prohibited.

Amos Guiora, a professor of law at the University of Utah who teaches religion and terrorism courses, said daily group prayers in the unit are unlikely to be a terrorism concern.

"I don't think it raises security concerns, but if it goes beyond the text of the prayer than I can understand how it could be seen as a security question," Guiora said.

The daily prayers typically take "only a few minutes," according to Lindh's lawsuit.

Lindh, who converted to Islam as a teenager, was captured in Afghanistan on Nov. 25, 2001. During his sentencing, he condemned terrorism and said he made a "mistake" joining the Taliban.

"Although I thought I knew a good deal about the Taliban when I went to the front line, it's clear to me now that there were many things of which I was not aware," he said.

Lindh is eligible for release in 2019.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stephanie Decker, Hero Mom, Visits White House

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In March Stephanie Decker lost both her legs saving her children from an Indiana tornado. On Friday, she walked into the Oval Office with the help of President Obama.

The president welcomed Decker, her husband Joe and their children, Reese and Dominic, to the White House less than four months after the twister destroyed their home in Henryville, Ind.

Decker saved her young children from the tornado by shielding them with her own body, but lost her legs in the process when they were crushed under debris.

A White House photo shows Decker, who now uses prosthetic legs, walking arm-in-arm with the president in the Oval Office.

Decker and the president discussed a foundation she started to help children with artificial limbs play sports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Star Student in Immigration Flap Will Be Home for Graduation

Frankfort High School(FRANKFORT, Ind.) -- High school senior Elizabeth Olivas is coming home. After getting caught up on an immigration technicality in her native Mexico, the Frankfort Indiana High School homecoming queen will get to walk with her classmates at graduation on Saturday.

The U.S. State Department confirmed to her immigration lawyer, Sarah L. Moshe, that Olivas was given a visa to come back to the United States, Moshe told ABC News.

“The waiver was approved, and we just finished issuing and printing her visa,” an email from the State Department said.  “We gave her the visa packet and I assume she will be leaving the Consulate momentarily (visa in hand!).  Congrats and best of luck to Elizabeth and her family!  She is very lucky to have such a great team working on her behalf.”

Olivas has lived in the U.S. since age 4, and her father is a naturalized U.S. citizen. But after turning 18, according to the law, she had 180 days to return to Mexico to apply for a long-term visa to the United States.  Without that visa she would become an illegal immigrant. So she and her father took the trip down to the Juarez consulate, only to realize they counted dates wrong because of the leap year. Olivas was late by one day, initially told she would not be issued her long-term visa and, without a  “humanitarian parole” visa waiver, she would not be able to enter the United States again for three years.

But even the waiver process can be complicated. Waivers can take anywhere from three to eight months to be issued. Olivas couldn’t wait that long. She’d already been in Mexico for six weeks, missing most of her high school senior milestones, including prom and an academic achievement ceremony. With a near 4.0 grade point average, the star athlete is set to graduate as one of the top students at the school.  She is also supposed to give the salutation speech at graduation, which seemed unlikely before her case received a global outcry.

Frankfort High School Principal Steve Edwards told the Indianapolis Star that students were sad at the thought of Olivas not being with them for graduation and that the situation was one of the hardest things he’s ever dealt with.

“This is a very skilled, talented, beautiful young lady,” he said.

But now Olivas and her classmates will be able to celebrate both their graduation and her homecoming.  She told Moshe via text message that she was excited and grateful.


Moshe told ABC News Olivas and her family are grateful for all the attention and concern over the teen’s plight.

“We take this opportunity to thank everyone for the outpouring of support for Elizabeth and her family,” Moshe said. “She will certainly enjoy a well-deserved graduation celebration on Saturday!”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


American Student Stuck In Mexico Could Miss Graduation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- High school senior Elizabeth Olivas thought she would be enjoying the last days at her Indiana high school with her classmates before graduating on Saturday.

Instead, the Frankfort High School homecoming queen is in her native Mexico, caught up in an immigration technicality that has her future in the United States straddled between U.S. government agencies, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Olivas has lived in the U.S. since age 4, and her father is a naturalized U.S. citizen. But after turning 18, according to the law, she had 180 days to return to Mexico to apply for a long-term visa to the United States. Without that visa she would become an illegal immigrant. So Olivas and her father took the trip down to the Juarez consulate, only to realize they were one day late.  Now she must wait three years before entering the country again, unless she receives a "humanitarian patrole" visa waiver.

According to the Star, Olivas’ tardiness in getting to Mexico was a combination of her wanting to miss as little school as possible and a date accounting error by her immigration lawyer.

Sarah Moshe, Olivas’ lawyer, told the paper that her firm did not take into account that this is a leap year. Many law firms use legal calendars as a way of tracking important dates that do not add the extra day in February.

“She feels awful, terrible, devastated,” Moshe said of the student. “The whole situation is crazy.”

Though visas are issued by the State Department, humanitarian parole waivers for those who have violated immigration law must be issued under the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen and Immigration Services.

On Wednesday, deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said that the State Department can’t comment on specific individual visa issues, but in a case in which humanitarian parole is granted the State Department would “process an application as quickly as possible.”

Time is not on Olivas’s side. Waivers can take anywhere from three to eight months to be issued. A spokesperson for the Department of Citizen and Immigration Services in Dallas told the Star that Olivas will have to wait her turn.

She’s already waited in Mexico for six weeks, missing most of her high school senior milestones, including prom and an academic achievement ceremony. With a near 4.0 grade point average, Olivas will graduate as one of the top students at the school.  But now it seems unlikely that she will attend that graduation or get the chance to give a salutation speech about the bright future ahead for herself and her American classmates.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hostages Freed Uninjured at Indiana Office

Joseph Devenney/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The stand-off in Valparaiso has ended after the gunman shot himself twice in the head. The suspect has been taken to a hospital and is in critical condition. Story developing...

(VALPARAISO, Ind.) -- A gunman has released the last two remaining hostages at an office building in Indiana, but he remains inside and armed, police said Friday.

No hostages remain in the Prudential real estate office that a gunman ambushed Friday, believing someone in the office owed him money, according to Sgt. Mike Grennes of the Valparaiso police department. One woman suffered a head injury during the hostage situation, but there were no injuries caused by gunshots, he said.

Police and FBI agents remain in a "standoff situation" with the gunman inside the building, he said.

FBI agents entered the Valparaiso, Ind., real estate office building around 1 p.m. after a report of hearing gunshots fired, according to Grennes.

"We're basically in a standoff situation," Grennes said at a press conference Friday. "From what I understand, he is not an employee."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gunman Holds Indiana Office Workers Hostage

Jupiterimages/ThinkstockUPDATE: A gunman has released the last two remaining hostages at an office building in Indiana, but he remains inside and armed, police said Friday afternoon. Story developing...

(VALPARAISO, Ind.) -- Police and FBI agents are in a "standoff situation" with a gunman who stormed an Indiana office building and is holding an unknown number of office workers hostage, according to police.

"We're basically in a standoff situation," Sgt. Mike Grennes of the Valparaiso police department said at a press conference. "From what I understand, he is not an employee."

The gunman, whose identity is known to police, remains in the building with the hostages.

Grennes could not confirm that shots had been fired, but said that he did not know of any injuries in the building. Authorities believe the incident could be the result of a financial dispute, he said.

Police received a 911 call around 11 a.m. from someone inside the Prudential Building that a gunman had entered the office, Grennes said. Police arrived and confirmed that an individual was inside with a gun.

Police were successful in getting some people out of the building, but they did not know the number of people left inside as the situation dragged on into the early afternoon hours.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Four-Year-Old Allegedly Stabbed to Death by Teen Cousin

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Police have arrested an Indianapolis teenager and preliminarily charged her with murder in connection to the stabbing death of her 4-year-old cousin.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police say they were called to a house where they found the little boy, Leon Thomas III, suffering from multiple stab wounds. The home belonged to his grandparents. Officers on the scene began administering CPR, and an EMS crew rushed him to IU Riley Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

“He was limp as he came out, and you also heard the police as the ambulance and people was coming up, you also heard them say, ‘It’s bad,’” a neighbor, Kevivah Parker, told ABC’s Indianapolis affiliate, WRTV.

Police later said they found the 14-year-old suspect a few blocks away, walking down the street “covered in blood.”  Her name is being withheld because she is a juvenile.

“It certainly is one of those cases that is just a tragedy for the family, and certainly for the first responding officers that had to witness that,” Indianapolis police spokesman Officer Kendale Adams told WRTV. “The hope is that [the 14-year-old] will get the services they need to become a better person. Obviously, this person needs a lot of social services and professional services.”

The children’s grandparents are believed to have been upstairs at the time of the incident. The victim’s 11-year-old sister was also present at the time of the attack.

The suspect could be charged as a child or an adult.  Indiana state law allows children as young as age 10 to be tried as adults in murder cases.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teens' Facebook Death Threats Are Subject of Free Speech Lawsuit

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(LAKE COUNTY, Ind.) -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against an Indiana middle school for expelling three students who allegedly threatened to kill other classmates on Facebook. The ACLU suit says the girls' right to free speech was violated and the use of emoticons and "LOL" showed they were only joking.

The three students, all 14-year-old girls, were expelled from Griffith Middle School in Lake County, Ind. in early February following comments they'd made on Facebook about "whom [among their classmates] they would kill, and how they would accomplish this feat, if they had the opportunity," according to the lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Indiana.

The controversy began after school on the afternoon of Jan. 24, when one of the girls posted a Facebook status update "concerning her disdain for cutting herself while shaving her legs," according to the court documents. The update was only visible to that particular girl's Facebook friends. Then the three girls began commenting on the status update from their personal home computers, allegedly joking about various topics in some 70 comments that were posted in the span of two hours, according to Gavin Rose, the ACLU of Indiana attorney representing the girls.

The conversation then turned to which of their classmates they'd like to kill, but Rose says that because the girls peppered their comments with smiley-face emoticons and Internet expressions like "LOL" indicating laughter, they should not have been taken seriously by the school.

"It was done so in an entirely jestful fashion, as exemplified by the fact that when you are serious about something, you don't follow it up with 'LOL,'" Rose told ABC News.

The lawsuit alleges that no one, including the girls, mentioned the Facebook conversation at school the next day, but that on the day after that, the mother of one of the girls' classmates showed a printed transcript to school administrators. The girls were each called to the school administrator's office and suspended for 10 days "with recommendation to expel."

Following their suspension, the school held a formal expulsion hearing, where the three girls and their parents were present. An "expulsion examiner" reviewed the facts and ultimately recommended that the girls should be expelled, according to court documents. The girls will be allowed to return to the school district in the fall as ninth graders, but will miss the rest of their eighth grade school year.

Griffith Middle School principal Edward Skaggs told ABC News that the school would not comment on the case, and directed inquiries to the district's legal representatives.

The school has 21 days to respond to the plaintiffs' lawsuit.

According to Rose, one of the students named by the girls in their conversation submitted a letter to the expulsion examiner, saying that he didn't think the girls should be kicked out of school, and that he'd understood what they'd meant.

"It was the type of conversation that every eighth grader has had with their friends," said Rose, but with the growth of social media, "these personal conversations are suddenly available to school administrators."

The school's right to control speech that didn't take place on school grounds depends on whether the girls' conversation presented a "material and substantial disruption," according to Ruthann Robbson, a constitutional law expert and professor at the City University of New York School of Law.

While the school has a reason to be concerned about death threats given the spate of suicides connected to online bullying, Robbson says the off-campus nature of the girls' conversation makes it tough to determine whether they presented a substantial disruption at school, particularly given recent cases that have favored the protected speech of students, not a school's right to curtail it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Caught on Tape: Tornado Rips Indiana School

Scott Olsen/Getty Images (HENRYVILLE, Ind.) -- High school security cameras in Henryville, Ind., captured rare footage of the effects of a tornado that ripped the unoccupied school apart.

On March 2, a deadly string of tornadoes turned tight-knit rural communities into apocalyptic war zones. Buildings were reduced to rubble, businesses were destroyed and families were left homeless by the disaster.

In Henryville, the town’s elementary, middle and high schools were wiped out. Receipts from the town were found 150 miles away in Cincinnati, carried by the brutal force of the storm.


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The death toll was 39 across the South and Midwest in that bout of wild weather.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Indiana Jail Loses Three Prisoners in Six Weeks

Kevin Horan/Stone(LAPORTE, Ind.) -- The county jail in LaPorte, Ind., is having such trouble keeping track of prisoners that three inmates have been mistakenly released in the last six weeks.

In the latest incident, St. Louis police arrived to claim Jervon Martin–held for drug and resisting arrest charges–only to find the LaPorte jail had released him due to a “paperwork mistake.” Martin is still at large.

In late January, Kevin Coleman tricked a guard into believing he was another prisoner and was allowed to walk out of jail.  In February, Johnnie Kirkwood was mistakenly released instead of another inmate with the same last name. Both were apprehended within 90 minutes, according to the sheriff’s office.

In a statement, LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said “all three incidents occurred due to jail staff failing to follow proper procedure.”  Mollenhauer complained his “over-populated” jail was staffed by an inadequate number of “over-worked” employees.

The Indiana sheriff fired one jail guard, demoted another, and reprimanded a third connected to the incidents.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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