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2 days ago · by · Comments Off on Christchurch Mosque Shootings

Christchurch Mosque Shootings

 

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At least 49 people were killed and 48 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019.  The attack occurred around lunchtime when the mosques were full of worshipers. Footage of the massacre was streamed live online, and a rambling 87 page manifesto laced with white supremacist references was published just before the shootings unfolded.  Police also neutralized two improvised explosive devices attached to one vehicle near the mosque.

The suspected shooter, Brenton Tarrant, 28, live-streamed 17 minutes of video which included footage of himself inside the first mosque, going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away.  In the 6 minutes Tarrant was inside, forty-one people were killed at the Al Noor Mosque.  The live streamed footage also showed the gunman casually talking and laughing as he walked out of the mosque where he shot at people near the area before driving away at high speed, heading for the Linwood Islamic Centre, about 3 miles away.  Another 7 people were killed at the Linwood Mosque, an eighth victim later died in the hospital. Tarrant was apprehended as he fled the Linwood Mosque when two police officers ran his car off the road.

Tarrant has been charged with murder and two other men remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown.  None of the men in custody have a criminal history.  Tarrant is an Australian-born former personal trainer who is believed to have been radicalized during his travels abroad. According to the Independent, Tarrant met with right-wing extremists while taking a trip to Europe in 2017, and also traveled to Pakistan and North Korea.  Authorities have said that Tarrant had become obsessed with terrorist attacks committed by radical Islamists in Europe in 2016 and 2017.

According to his manifesto, he started planning a revenge attack about two years prior to the attack and chose his targets three months in advance.  The manifesto expresses several anti-immigrant sentiments including hate speech against migrants, white supremacist rhetoric, and calls for non-European immigrants such as Roma, Indians, Turkish people, Semitic people and others allegedly “invading his land” to be removed.  Tarrant describes himself as an ethno-nationalist and refers to revenge for European civilians who were casualties in Islamic terrorist attacks within Europe as motivation for his attack.  He repeatedly mentions revenge for Ebba Åkerlund, a victim in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Prime Minister Ardern called the incident an “act of extreme and unprecedented violence” and said “this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”  She also described it as a well-planned terrorist attack.  Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel stated that she never thought “anything like this” could happen in New Zealand, saying “everyone is shocked”.  Many other politicians and world leaders have condemned the attacks and world leaders attribute the attack to rising Islamophobia.

Prime Minister Ardern announced: “Our gun laws will change, now is the time… People will be seeking change, and I am committed to that.”  Attorney-General David Parker was later quoted as saying that the government will ban semi-automatic guns but later said the government had not yet committed to anything and that regulations around semi-automatic weapons was “one of the issues” the government would consider.

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on R Kelly Arrested Hours After Tense Interview With Gayle King

R Kelly Arrested Hours After Tense Interview With Gayle King

 

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R&B singer R. Kelly’s legal troubles seem far from over with Chicago police charging him with failure to pay more than $161,000 in child support owed to his ex-wife Andrea-for their three children.  The arrest came just two weeks after he was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault against four women and girls—three of whom were under the age of consent at the time.  Prosecutors say three of Kelly’s victims were underage girls and that Kelly abused them over a span of about a dozen years.  Kelly was once again released from custody after someone paid his bail three days after his arrest.

His second arrest came just hours after an interview with Gayle King where he became visibly upset and was screaming and cursing.  During the interview, which broadcast on ”CBS This Morning,” Kelly again denied the allegations that have followed him for years as well as the more recent allegations that he is holding several young women in what has been described as a sex cult.  The 52 year old singer went from tears to yelling throughout the interview as he claims that the accusations are lies.  During the tense interview, at times, Kelly jumped from his seat, standing over King as he yelled and pounded on his chest.

  1. Kelly: “I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my [bleep] life! Y’all are killing me with this [bleep]! I gave y’all 30 years of my [bleep] career!”

Gayle King: “Robert.”

  1. Kelly: “Thirty years of my career, and y’all are trying to kill me!”

During the interview, when asked about whether he pays child support to his ex-wife, he claimed to only have about $350,000 left in his bank account.

Kelly has faced scrutiny for more than a decade, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record sales over the years.  He is notably known for his music as much as the allegations involving underage girls.  It’s been well-known that Kelly settled four cases involving underage girls before his 2002 indictment.  During the six years it took that case to go to trial, Kelly churned out hits like “I Believe I Can Fly,”  “I Wish” and “Fiesta”.  He was eventually found not guilty and though the allegations were well known, they faded from the publics’ mind as his record sales soared.

Attention to the allegations were reignited in January after the six-part Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” aired.  It featured interviews with seven accusers and former members of his inner circle. They all said Kelly preys on vulnerable women and young girls.  All of the girls were willing involved with him but were underage at the time.  They claim that at the time, they loved him and began their relationships believing they had a special connection but began to realize that he had a sickness.

Gayle King also asked King about the two women that currently live with Kelly, whose parents both claim he has isolated them- abusing and brainwashing their daughters.  Aspiring singer Jocelyn Savage, 23, met Kelly when she was just 17 years old and has been living with Kelly since she was 19.  She broke off contact with her parents soon after she began living with him.  Another aspiring singer, Azriel Clary, 20, also met Kelly when she was 17 years old and she broke off contact soon after moving in with him.  In an interview with Gayle King, Clary and Jocelyn defended R. Kelly saying, that their parents are just after money and that they were happy being his girlfriends and living with him.  R.Kelly was in the room during the interview.rkelly.jpg

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Patriots Owner’s Arrest Spotlights Sex Trafficking Investigation

Patriots Owner’s Arrest Spotlights Sex Trafficking Investigation

 

 

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The billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was charged with two counts of soliciting sex during a wide ranging sting operation investigating prostitution and human trafficking at day spas in South Florida.  The charges against Mr. Kraft, 77, in Jupiter, Fla., came after the police used video surveillance to observe activity inside several day spas and massage parlors.  Prosecutors say they have video evidence of Kraft engaging in the criminal acts.  While Mr. Kraft lives in Massachusetts, he has owned property in Palm Beach, Fla., for a number of years.  Kraft is accused of patronizing a spa in Jupiter called Orchids of Asia, a small storefront business in a strip mall on two occasions.

All of the sexual encounters that have resulted in charges were videotaped as part of the prostitution investigation.  Investigators had been conducting surveillance of massage parlors in the area for 6 months and have charged nearly 200 people, though only a fraction have been arrested so far.  The police said that the massage parlors and spas had been used for prostitution and that many of the women involved were considered to be victims.  Many of the women involved in the case came to the U.S. from China on temporary visas, and some reportedly had sex with 1,000 men a year.  The investigation involved several law enforcement agencies and resulted in raids and arrests connected to nearly a dozen businesses in the region.  At least one person was charged with human trafficking while others, including several women, are accused of racketeering and money laundering. More than two dozen customers, men ranging in age from their 30s to at least one in his 80s, have been arrested.

Acting on a tip, the police began their investigation of Orchids of Asia by searching online reviews for the business, several of which used a slang term for a sex act that was available to male customers.  After conducting 24-hour video surveillance in November, the police noticed that only male clients had entered.  A Florida Department of Health investigator inspected the business on behalf of the police and noticed several indications that women were living there, including beds, dressers with personal items and a refrigerator containing food and condiments.

One day in January, the police stopped men leaving the spa and the men told police officers that they had taken part in sex acts during their visits. Using that information, the police obtained a search warrant allowing them to monitor and record conduct inside the spa on video.  At 11:30pm on January 17th, the police entered the Orchids of Asia massage parlor under the pretense of investigating the report of a suspicious package.  They evacuated the parlor and set up surveillance cameras to capture what went on inside.  For five days, starting on Jan. 18, the police monitored the video, and they said they had observed more than 20 men receiving manual or oral stimulation during massage sessions.  Police say they did not observe sexual intercourse in any of the instances.

It is extremely difficult for law enforcement to takedown the rings that operate these types of parlors and even more difficult to prove human trafficking charges because of workers’ reluctance to testify, cultural barriers and an international business structure that makes identifying the masterminds next to impossible.  In the last several years, law enforcement has started to view the women in these situations as victims and have cracked down on arresting johns in an effort to eliminate the demand.  In many cases, they refer these women to social services after a parlor is raided.  Many of the women who are working in these establishments are recruited from rural parts of China with promises of legal employment in the US.  Some are fleeing domestic abuse, have little education or their families are heavily in debt.  Agencies in China charge them thousands in travel fees to the US and they agree to work off the debt, eventually being forced into the sex trade with little to no other options for housing or income once in the US.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Five Dead In Aurora, IL Shooting

Five Dead In Aurora, IL Shooting

 

 

 

 

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In Aurora, Illinois, 45-year-old Gary Martin, used a Smith & Wesson handgun, in a 90 minute workplace shooting spree.  Martin killed five of his coworkers and wounded six others, including five police officers before being killed by police gun fire.  Martin had worked at the water valve manufacturer Henry Pratt Co. for 15 years and opened fire on his coworkers during a meeting, after learning of his termination.

Police said Martin, 45, likely brought his handgun to work because he knew he was being fired from his job.  Three of the victims were killed inside the meeting room and two others were killed nearby.  The victims were identified as Clayton Parks, a human resources manager who began working at Henry Pratt in November; Trevor Wehner, 21, a human resources intern on his first day with the company; Russell Beyer, a union chairman who worked at Henry Pratt for more than 20 years; Vicente Juarez, a stock room attendant and fork lift operator who had been with the company since 2006 and Josh Pinkard, a plant manager who had worked with the company for 13 years in Alabama before transferring to Aurora last year.

A sixth employee and five Aurora police officers were also shot and expected to survive.  Responding officers arrived at the shooting scene four minutes after the first 911 calls were placed.  Martin shot and wounded five officers during initial exchanges of gunfire. He then retreated into the 29,000 square foot building, where police found him roughly 90 minutes later. He again fired at officers and was fatally shot.

The five officers shot include a 39-year-old man with 13 years of service, a 52-year-old man with 25 years of service, a 52-year-old man with 24 years of service, a 53-year-old man with 30 years of service     and a 24-year-old man with almost four years of service.  A sixth officer, a 23-year-old man with two years on the job, was treated a knee injury sustained during the incident.

In 1995, Martin was convicted of felony aggravated assault in Mississippi and served less than two years in prison for a violent assault against a former girlfriend that included hitting her with a baseball bat and stabbing her with a knife.  Martin had previously been arrested by Aurora police officers on six different occasions, including for domestic violence and traffic incidents. His last arrest in Aurora was for violating an order of protection in 2008.  Martin was not legally allowed to possess a gun in Illinois because of his prior felony conviction in Mississippi.

However, in 2014, he successfully applied for an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and bought a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun. When Martin tried to procure a concealed carry license that same year, the Mississippi conviction came up during a background check. Martin was denied a concealed carry license, his FOID card was revoked and he was notified to forfeit his firearm to local law enforcement.  Authorities never confiscated his gun.  His most recent arrest was in 2017 in Oswego, Ill., for disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.

City officials in Aurora have started a GoFundMe account to help families who lost loved ones in the tragic shooting.  https://www.gofundme.com/f/aurora-strong-community-fund  The GoFundMe has a goal of raising $50,000 to “relieve the extreme financial burdens families are experiencing during this difficult time,” according to the city.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Coast Guard Lieutenant Suspected of Planning Terror Plot

Coast Guard Lieutenant Suspected of Planning Terror Plot

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An active-duty Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested on gun and drug charges, allegedly wanted to conduct a mass killing.  Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, of Silver Spring, Maryland, reportedly had a stockpile of 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Federal investigators uncovered a domestic terror plot to kill high-profile liberal figures including Democratic lawmakers, media personalities and judges.  He was ordered held without bail on drug and gun charges while prosecutors gather evidence to support more serious charges involving what they portrayed as a domestic terror plot.

Hasson’s “hit list” included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, civil rights pioneer Angela Davis, freshman Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, MSNBC host Chris Hayes and Democratic presidential hopefuls Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, among others.  Hasson, a self-described white nationalist, was reportedly inspired by the far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who in 2011 killed 77 people in a bomb attack and a mass shooting.

Court documents say Hasson holds extremist and white supremacist views and allege that he relied on the manifesto of Anders Breivik.  In a draft email obtained by prosecutors, Hasson wrote, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.” Court documents also revealed he wanted to “establish a white homeland”.  Court records show Hasson also stockpiled steroids and human growth hormone “to increase his ability to conduct attacks,” consistent with the directions in Breivik’s manifesto.

Spokesman for US Coast Guard Headquarters, Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Barry Lane said in a statement that the arrest was part of an investigation led by the Coast Guard.  “An active duty Coast Guard member, stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC, was arrested on illegal weapons and drug charges as a result of an ongoing investigation led by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, in cooperation with the FBI and Department of Justice. Because this is an open investigation, the Coast Guard has no further details at this time,” Lane said.

Hasson served as an aircraft mechanic in the Marine Corps from 1988 to 1993 and was then on active duty with the Army National Guard for approximately two years. He has been in the Coast Guard for more than twenty years and has held his current position since 2016.  Hasson is married with two children, one of whom is in the Marine Corps.  Prosecutors allege that Hasson had been amassing guns and ammunition since 2017 in preparation for his plot to assassinate high-profile Democratic and left-leaning politicians and media figures.

Hasson used work computers to plan the attack during his job as a Coast Guard Lieutenant and studying the manifestos of various mass shooters.  He created a spreadsheet with a list of journalists, Democratic politicians, and socialist figures and organizations.  He also attempted to find out where Democratic politicians and media figures lived.  Federal prosecutors say “The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country. He must be detained pending trial” and: “The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life” as well as his charges being the “proverbial tip of the iceberg”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Trial Underway for Insys Execs Kickback Scheme

Trial Underway for Insys Execs Kickback Scheme

 

 

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A trial is underway in Boston against pharmaceutical executives who prosecutors say ran a criminal scheme of bribing doctors to prescribe its’ highly addictive fentanyl spray, Subsys, to patients who didn’t need it. John Kapoor, the founder of Insys Therapeutics and former CEO, and other drug executives are accused of organizing fake speaking events to pay and influence doctors. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug.
Subsys is a powerful pain killer used to treat cancer pain in terminally ill patients. The drug, which is made from fentanyl, is incredibly powerful, about 100 times more powerful than morphine. More than 900 people have died while using Subsys since it was approved in 2012. Kapoor, was charged by the government in 2017. The indictment against Kapoor and the other former Insys executives allege that they “conspired to mislead and defraud health insurance providers” who did not want to approve payment for Subsys when it was prescribed for patients who did not have a cancer diagnosis. The U.S. Department of Justice said the company executives were able to get around those concerns by setting up the “reimbursement unit,” which was dedicated to obtaining prior authorization directly from insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.
The executives — Sunrise Lee, John Kapoor, Michael Gurry, Richard Simon and Joseph Rowan — deny wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy. They have argued that prosecutors are trying to make an example of Insys, a small segment of the pharmaceutical industry they say is unfairly maligned by a government trying to show it is making a dent in the opioid crisis. The government also charged former CEO and company president Michael Babich and Alec Burlakoff, the former vice president of Sales. Burlakoff and Babich have pled guilty to charges tied to the racketeering and conspiracy case and have agreed to cooperate with the government. They are expected to be star witnesses for the government during the trial.
“In exchange for bribes and kickbacks, the practitioners wrote large numbers of prescriptions for the patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer,” the government said in its 2017 announcement. Prosecutors and court documents say, Subsys’s pharmaceutical sales team used a playbook of scandalous incentives to get the drug prescribed. They hired attractive sales reps in their 20s and 30s and encouraged them to stroke doctors’ hands while “begging” them to write prescriptions.
The company offered doctors hefty speaking fees, often for events attended only by buddies and people who worked in their practices. How frequently a doctor participated in the company’s lucrative speaker program was based on how frequently doctors wrote Subsys prescriptions, prosecutors said. Insys made 18,000 payments to doctors in 2016 — a total of more than $2 million that went to headache doctors and back pain specialists.
Prosecutors say Sunrise Lee, a former dancer at a Florida strip club was hired as a sales executive despite having no academic degree and her only management experience was running an escort service. Prosecutors say Lee rose to become Insys Therapeutics’ regional sales director and once gave a doctor a lap dance during one of the speaking events. Holly Brown, the Insys sales rep who recounted the lap dance story to federal jurors, testified that Lee frequently wore low-cut tops and frequently handed out her business card to doctors “ if they wanted to discuss the Fentanyl Spray ‘in private.’ ”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter Charged With 11 More Crimes

Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter Charged With 11 More Crimes

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A federal grand jury has filed 19 new charges, including 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death and two counts of hate crimes involving attempted murder, as well as several others. Robert Bowers, the accused gunman in last year’s mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, now faces 63 criminal counts.  The indictment against Bowers cited his online attacks on the Jewish charity HIAS, including posts from the day of the shooting.

On October 27, 2018, eleven Jewish worshipers were shot and killed in what has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.  Bowers, 46, allegedly opened fire on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and injuring 7 others.  He had made anti-Semitic comments on the extremist-friendly social network Gab shortly before the attack.  The Tree of Life synagogue housed three congregations and approximately 75 people were inside the building at the time.

As morning services were underway, just before entering, Bowers posted a final message to Gab, once again referencing the conspiracy theory. “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he wrote. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” Bowers entered the synagogue at 9:50am and opened fire.  By 9:54am police began receiving multiple calls from people barricaded in the building reporting the attack.  Survivors say Bowers was shooting for around 20 minutes and at one point yelled “All Jews must die!”

Police arrived at 9:59 am and Bowers fired on police from the entryway, apparently on his way out of the building.  Police returned fire, causing the gunman to retreat into the building.  At 10:30 a.m., tactical teams entered the building and exchanged fire with Bowers.  Bowers was wounded during the exchange and retreated to a room on the third floor of the synagogue.  Two SWAT members were also wounded during the exchange.  At 11:08 a.m., the Bowers crawled out of the room and surrendered.  Bowers was allegedly armed with three handguns and an AR-15.

In his posts on his Gab profile, Bowers called Jewish people “the children of Satan” and in the days before the shooting, Bowers authored increasingly anti-Semitic posts.  On October 10, he posted about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a Jewish charity that was hosting charity events for immigrants. One of the events was at the Dor Hadash congregation, which was housed at the Tree of Life synagogue.  Bowers accused HIAS and its associated congregations of bringing “hostile invaders to dwell among us.” The claim is part of a white supremacist conspiracy theory that falsely claims Jewish people are trying to promote immigration to make countries less white. Bowers also posted anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi memes.  He was charged in federal court that month with dozens of offenses including 11 murder charges. Bowers had previously pled not guilty to the charges against him in October. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Two Men Admit Role in Minnesota Mosque Attack

Two Men Admit Role in Minnesota Mosque Attack

 

 

 

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Two members of an Illinois militia group admitted to bombing a Bloomington mosque in 2017 in a bid to terrorize Muslims into leaving the United States.  Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris rented a truck and drove more than 500 miles to bomb a Minnesota mosque.  Both men pled guilty to five counts related to the mosque attack, as well as the attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic and other crimes.  A third suspect, 47 year old, Michael Hari, whom prosecutors said directed the bombing, remains in federal custody.

Hari is a former sheriff’s deputy from Illinois who runs a security company and submitted a bid to build President Trump’s border wall.  The plea agreements portray Hari as the ringleader of a militia group called the White Rabbits, which included Hari, McWhorter, Morris and at least five other people. Hari’s trial is set for July.  The plea agreements say the men targeted the mosque to interfere with the free exercise of religion by Muslims and to let Muslims know they were not welcome in the United States.

According to the plea agreements, the men were headed toward Minnesota when Hari told McWhorter and Morris that he had a pipe bomb in the vehicle and they were going to bomb a mosque.  When the three men arrived at Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017, Hari gave Morris a sledgehammer and told him to break a window.  McWhorter then lit the fuse on the pipe bomb and threw it inside.   Morris then threw the gasoline mixture inside, causing an explosion, fire and extensive damage.  No one was injured in the attack, which happened just as morning prayers were about to begin, terrifying members of the local Muslim community.

Hari allegedly picked Dar al-Farooq because it was far enough away from the White Rabbits’ central Illinois hometown that he thought they wouldn’t be suspected. He also allegedly believed it was a focal point for terror recruiting, a claim that law enforcement has not substantiated.    Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, said Morris merely followed the lead of Hari, a man he’d known as a father figure since he was 9.  “Hari essentially weaponized Joe Morris,” Richman said.

McWhorter and Morris also pleaded guilty to their roles in a failed attack on a Champaign, Illinois, abortion clinic in November 2017. A pipe bomb that Morris said he and Hari threw into the clinic did not explode.  Court documents also state that Hari, McWhorter, Morris and others also participated in an armed home invasion in Ambia, Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.  Morris and McWhorter also admitted to attempting to extort Canadian National Railway by threatening to damage tracks if the railroad didn’t pay them money.  Morris and McWhorter could each face at least 35 years in prison.  A fourth man, Ellis Mack of Clarence, already pled guilty to two counts in Illinois and is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Four Charged With Plotting To Attack Islamic Community In NY

Four Charged With Plotting To Attack Islamic Community In NY

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Three men and a teen were arrested for allegedly plotting to attack Islamberg, a small predominantly Muslim community near Binghamton, New York.  Brian Colaneri, 20, Vincent Vetromile, 19, Andrew Crysel, 18, were arrested along with a 16-year-old in connection to the alleged plot.  The suspects were said to be in possession of multiple improvised explosive devices and firearms, and were charged with criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy.

Police uncovered the plot when the 16-year-old boy was reported to police in Greece, New York, for  making a lunchroom comment.  He allegedly showed another student a photo of a schoolmate who, he told others, looked “like the next school shooter.”  While interviewing the boy about the comment he made investigators were told that he was allegedly working with three men to attack Islamberg.  Greece Police Chief Patrick D. Phelan said “The initial investigation was about the comment made by the student and then our investigation took us to this plot that we had no idea about.  I don’t know that there was a specific date. They had a plan in place,” Phelan said.

Phelan told reporters that three improvised explosive devices in the shape of mason jars wrapped in duct tape were found at the home of the juvenile.  “They were homemade bombs with various items – black powder, BBs, nails, inside a container,” Phelan said.  The bombs are currently being examined by the FBI to see if they would have been capable of detonating.  Police searched five locations and seized 23 weapons and numerous electronic devices, including phones and computers.   Some of the guns were owned by the suspects and others were owned by family members but the suspects had access to them.

Colaneri, Vetromile and Crysel are each charged with three counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree and one count of conspiracy in the fourth degree. Information about the 16 year old was not released by police due to his age.  Phelan credited the students who reported the lunchroom comment with saving lives.  “If they had carried out this plot, which every indication is that they were going to, people would have died,” the chief said. “I don’t know how many and who, but people would have died.”

Islamberg is a rural community in Delaware County that is operated by The Muslims of America, an indigenous American Muslim organization based in the U.S.  It was settled by followers of Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarik Gilani in the 1970s to escape crime and crowding in New York City.  It’s a gated community with dirt roads and several dozen small homes in New York’s Catskills Mountains.  There are  200 or so members of the community, where children are home-schooled and residents worship at a mosque built on the 70-acre property.   Police and analysts have dismissed accusations that the community is a terrorist training ground, but the claims have persisted for decades.

This is not the first time Islamberg has been the target of an alleged hate crime plot.  In 2017, a Tennessee man was convicted on federal charges for what authorities called plans to burn down Islamberg’s mosque in 2015. Robert Doggart, now 67, is serving a 20 year sentence in federal prison.  Doggart was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in April 2015 after saying in wiretapped telephone calls that he planned to recruit a militia and travel to Islamberg for an attack.  While there, he intended to “carry out an armed attack” that included burning down a mosque or “blowing it up with a Molotov cocktail or other explosive device.” The wiretaps also recorded him saying “I don’t want to have to kill children, but there’s always collateral damage.”

 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Three Officers Acquitted In Alleged Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

Three Officers Acquitted In Alleged Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

 

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A Chicago judge has acquitted three police officers accused of covering up the 2014 murder of 17 year old Laquan McDonald by a fellow officer Jason Van Dyke.  Van Dyke was convicted in October of the second-degree murder of Laquan McDonald, which was captured on an infamous police dashboard camera video.  McDonald was shot 16 times, including numerous times as he lay wounded in the street.  The three police officers — David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney — contradicted what the video showed and prosecutors alleged it was part of a cover-up.  None of them fired any shots that night. Several other officers had witnessed the shooting and given questionable accounts, but a grand jury declined to indict any others.

The acquittal came despite discrepancies between the three officers’ police reports and dash cam video showing that McDonald posed no threat and walked away from officers before he was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke.  Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson rejected the prosecutors’ arguments that the officers had shooed away witnesses and then created a narrative to justify the 2014 shooting, which prompted citywide protests, the firing of the police chief and a wide-ranging federal investigation into the police force.  Prosecutors repeatedly cited the footage as they built a case against the officers on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

Judge Stephenson said that even though the officers’ accounts of the shooting differed from the video, that it did not amount to proof that they were lying. “Two people with two different vantage points can witness the same event,” she said, and still describe it differently.  The judge said that key witnesses for the prosecution had offered conflicting testimony, and said there was nothing presented at trial that showed that the officers had failed to preserve evidence, as prosecutors allege.  Challenging the point that officers had shooed away a witness as part of a cover-up, the judge said it was not obvious that the police had known the witness had seen the shooting.

The witness in question, Alma Benitez, had stopped for a bite to eat at a nearby Burger King, on her way home from her night shift at a sandwich shop.  Benitez was interviewed by television news crews at the scene and featured in several news reports the next day saying McDonald was clearly not a threat to the officer. She told new crews that Van Dyke had no reason to open fire.  “It was super-exaggerated, you didn’t need that many cops to begin with. They didn’t need to shoot him. They didn’t. They basically had him face to face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him.”

In a federal lawsuit filed in September 2016, Benitez alleges she had tried to take photos and video of the scene with her cellphone but wasn’t sure the recordings worked.  Once police “became aware” she was trying to record the incident, they demanded she surrender her phone and accompany officers to the detective headquarters, where she was detained and questioned for six hours.  Benitez claims she was allowed to leave the station around 4am, only after she demanded to see a lawyer and that she was “threatened and harassed” on multiple occasions after she was featured in news reports.  The suit accuses several officers and detectives of then writing false reports misstating what Benitez and other witnesses at the scene had told them.

Weeks before the city agreed to pay $5 million to McDonald’s estate, a letter written by lawyers representing McDonald’s family alleged that at least two other witnesses to the shooting were treated in similar fashion.  The letter alleged that all three were questioned for hours at the Area Central police headquarters and pressured into changing their accounts to match the official police version.  The letter also reported that Benitez was so appalled by what she witnessed that she actually screamed out ‘stop shooting!’ as Officer Van Dyke continued to discharge his weapon while Laquan was laid in the street.”

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* State specific differences may apply to each insurance carrier or benefits provider, and each entity is responsible for their own contractual and financial obligations. Insurance products offered through HI4E.Org, Health & Life Solutions, LLC, and Health Insurance 4 Everyone, are not available to residents of New York or Oregon.

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