Life in prison sought for abduction, rape of 4-year-old girl

Jul 26, 2017 10

Prosecutors say a Montana man turned every parent’s nightmare into reality when he chased down a 4-year-old girl at night in a park, snatched her while a friend watched helplessly, then raped and left her for dead on an American Indian reservation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office wants 22-year-old John William Lieba II sent to prison for life when he is sentenced Wednesday before a federal judge.

A jury convicted him of kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse of a child and assault resulting in serious injury in the February 2016 crime on the Fort Peck Indian reservation.

Defense attorneys say Lieba had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication prior to the kidnapping and could not remember the events. They requested a 30-year prison sentence.

Ohio set to end 3-year hiatus with execution of child killer

Jul 26, 2017 13

Ohio is preparing to put a condemned child killer to death in the state’s first execution in more than three years.

Forty-three-year-old Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die Wednesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. He was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter.

Phillips and other death row inmates have challenged the state’s new three-drug execution method, which includes a sedative used in some problematic executions in Ohio and elsewhere. Phillips had requested a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court to continue legal appeals. Late Tuesday night, justices denied his requests.

Phillips’ attorneys call the case tragic, but say he wasn’t one of the worst offenders.

The county prosecutor says it’s time for justice to be served.

Ohio last executed an inmate in 2014.

Tourist plunges to his death in Montana's Glacier Park while taking photos

Jul 26, 2017 11

Officials with Montana’s Glacier National Park say a visitor who was taking photographs of the scenery fell into a creek, was swept into a culvert and plunged off a steep cliff to his death.

Park officials said in a statement Monday that 26-year-old Robert Durbin of Corvallis, Montana, died Saturday.

They say Durbin was taking photos along Haystack Creek next to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is known for its dramatic scenery and vertigo-inducing heights.

He fell into the creek and was washed through a culvert that goes beneath the road and empties into a 100-foot drop down a cliff.

The popular road was closed to traffic for about an hour while rangers and rescuers found and recovered the man’s body.

Glacier officials say the death isn’t considered suspicious. Falls are a leading cause of death in the park.

William Durbin, Robert’s brother, remembered his sibling as creative with a passion for fishing.

“He had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody,” Durbin told The Missoulian. “He was always smiling. He was always happy. His major passion was fishing. He worked so he could fish.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report 

Court orders Uzbek terror suspect detained until trial

Jul 25, 2017 18

An appellate court has reversed a judge’s decision to release a man detained for 5½ years for allegedly providing material support to an Uzbek terror organization.

The Denver Post reported Tuesday https://goo.gl/8WN6aC that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Jamshid Muhtorov to remain in custody until his trial, which is expected to begin early next year.

Muhtorov argued his right to a speedy trial has been violated, and on June 23, U.S. District Judge John Kane ordered his release.

Muhtorov is accused of supporting the Islamic Jihad Union and communicating with its website administrator. He denied the allegations after his January 2012 arrest, saying he was going to visit family in Uzbekistan.

The appellate court argued that Muhtorov could still pose a danger.

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Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

Orca whale repeatedly rams fishing boat, Alaska man says

Jul 25, 2017 13

An Alaska man said his boat was attacked over the weekend by an orca during a salmon fishing excursion with his 14-year-old son and two other people.

Victor Littlefield of Sitka said the killer whale repeatedly rammed the boat, yanked its anchor line and slapped the boat’s bow with its tail.

The 33-foot (10-meter) aluminum boat lurched to one side during the attack, Littlefield said in an interview. The event happened while it was anchored Sunday near Little Biorka Island in southeastern Alaska.

Littlefield had seen the movie, “Jaws” the previous day and initially thought his boat was being attacked by a great white shark, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

But the culprit was an aggressive orca. Littlefield’s black Labrador Retriever, Roscoe was lying on a commercial ice box on the boat and Littlefield said he wondered if the whale was going after the dog.

“It was just extremely bizarre behavior that I’d never heard of,” he said Tuesday.

Littlefield said he screamed and cursed at the whale during the attack, terrified that the orca would pull the boat under water when it kept twisting the anchorage line around itself.

Littlefield’s son videotaped part of the encounter, which lasted a few minutes before the whale swam away. No one was hurt.

Albert Duncan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Littlefield notified the agency and provided video of the encounter.

Duncan said such attacks are rare.

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Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel, http://www.sitkasentinel.com/

US and China report progress on new North Korea sanctions

Jul 25, 2017 14

The United States and China said Tuesday they are making progress on a new U.N. resolution that would impose additional sanctions against North Korea following its test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The U.S. gave China a proposed resolution several weeks ago, and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters that China has been negotiating with its close ally Russia on possible new sanctions.

“The true test will be what they’ve worked out with Russia,” she said.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi told two journalists that “we are making progress” and “we are working as hard as we can.”

But neither Haley nor Liu would estimate how long it will take before they agree on a draft that can be circulated to the rest of the 15-member Security Council and then put to a vote.

“There is certainly light at the end of the tunnel and we are working towards that light, and I can’t really tell how much time we would need,” Liu said.

He wouldn’t confirm that China is working with Russia on the text, saying “there is always a process of working out the resolution, and in due course I think the resolution will be discussed at a wider circle.”

Haley said “I think we are moving. It’s not as fast as I would like but these are pretty serious sanctions and so I think that there is a lot of thought going into this.”

The Security Council has already imposed six rounds of progressively tougher sanctions against North Korea, but so far that has failed to halt the country’s rapidly advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The most recent sanctions resolution to be adopted, on June 2, added to the U.N. blacklist 15 individuals and four entities linked to the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

At the time, China was blocking tougher measures pushed by the United States.

But North Korea raised the stakes with its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile as Americans celebrated Independence Day on July 4.

The test marked a significant step toward young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s goal of developing a missile with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the United States — and it changed the reality for the Trump administration, which moved quickly to give China a new draft resolution with tougher sanctions.

Haley stressed that the United States wants to ensure that a new resolution is “a strong resolution, because that’s what we think we need to have.”

“I think we are making progress, so we are actually talking about different sanctions,” she said.

Haley refused to say what measures were being discussed. But earlier this month she told the Security Council that if it is united, the international community can cut off major sources of hard currency to North Korea, restrict oil to its military and weapons programs, increase air and maritime restrictions and hold senior officials accountable.

Liu said “there is going to be more than the last resolution.”

But he stressed that for China, a resolution must serve to promote denuclearization and peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, and a negotiated solution to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Therefore, Liu said, the specific measures in a new resolution need to be measured against achieving those three objectives.

Haley said she was pleased with China’s response to the initial draft the U.S. proposed.

“We were waiting to see if it was going to be weak or strong, and I think they’re showing some seriousness with it,” Haley said. “We are constantly in touch with China and I can say that things are moving, but it is still too early to tell how far they’ll move.”

Liu said “the most important thing is to have … a draft resolution that everybody can support.”

One possible stumbling block is whether the new resolution will refer to North Korea’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Russia has questioned whether the missile actually was an ICBM, though China did not.

“I think that everyone that we have dealt with acknowledges it’s an ICBM,” Haley said. “Whether they’re willing to put it in writing or not is going to be the real question.”

Liu noted that previous resolutions referred to ballistic missiles “without going into further categorization of the missiles.”

“And I do not think that for the purpose of working out a resolution you need really to go to the technical nitty gritties of things,” he said.

Liu said China is still working to convince other governments to support its suspension-for-suspension proposal in which North Korea would suspend nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea suspending their joint military exercises.

The package proposed by China and supported by Russia also includes denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and “a peace and security mechanism” in place for both North Korea and South Korea, Liu said.

“We just hope that the other relevant parties will be forthcoming because we don’t see any alternative,” he said.

The Latest: Condemned killer's lawyers appeal to high court

Jul 25, 2017 13

The Latest on the condemned killer in Ohio scheduled for execution Wednesday (all times local):

8 p.m.

Attorneys for a condemned Ohio killer who is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court for a review of the case.

Ronald Phillips was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in Akron.

In a brief filed late Tuesday, attorneys for Phillips say his circumstances at the time of the murder led him to be treated like a much younger person. They say his case “calls out” for further review by the high court.

Phillips was 19 at the time of the killing.

His attorneys say he was a teenager “with such obvious psychosocial deficits” that when police picked him up at school they took him to the department’s juvenile bureau instead of the adult facility.

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10:55 a.m.

A condemned killer in Ohio has arrived at the death house ahead of his scheduled execution Wednesday with several requests for a delay pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A prisons department spokeswoman said Ronald Phillips arrived at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville at about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. That’s about 24 hours before he is set to die in Ohio’s first execution in more than three years.

Phillips was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in Akron.

He has asked the high court for more time to appeal Ohio’s lethal injection method. Fifteen pharmacology professors argued Monday a sedative used in the process is incapable of inducing unconsciousness.

Phillips also seeks a delay based on being 19 at the time of the killing.

Tennessee prosecutor concludes deputies justified in death

Jul 25, 2017 14

A Tennessee prosecutor has determined that sheriff’s deputies were justified in the fatal shooting of a 74-year-old man two months ago.

Albert Gagnier, who was white, was shot by Knox County sheriff’s deputies on May 23 when they responded to a report that Gagnier was shooting in a neighborhood.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Knoxville police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said in a statement Tuesday that District Attorney General Charme Allen reviewed the investigative file and concluded the force used was necessary to stop the threat. Knoxville police conducted the criminal investigation, and the sheriff’s office conducted the administrative investigation.

Seven deputies were placed on paid administrative leave after Gagnier’s death. Their names and races weren’t released.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

Wildlife officials investigate video of boat dragging shark

Jul 25, 2017 17

Florida wildlife officials are investigating after a video of men dragging a shark behind a speeding boat went viral on several social media sites.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Rob Klepper said in an email Tuesday that the agency had been alerted to the video by a web tip.

The email says investigators are trying to identify the individuals in the video and where it took place. He says it wasn’t immediately clear if any violations had taken place.

The video began getting attention Monday after Miami sport fisherman Mark Quartiano, also known as “Mark the Shark,” reposted the video on his Instagram page. His caption said, “FOR ONCE I MAY HAVE TO AGREE WITH @PETA.”

Is the covert CIA program to arm Syrian rebels still secret?

Jul 25, 2017 15

President Donald Trump seemed to blow the lid on the cancellation of a covert CIA program in Syria when he tweeted about it this week. But, intelligence agencies still won’t talk about it.

The program arming Syrian rebels has long been an open secret, but for years no one was authorized to discuss it — and few would even after news reports last week that Trump had ordered the CIA to end it.

But Trump essentially confirmed the existence of the program and its cancellation Monday night when he lashed out at The Washington Post. The president tweeted that the newspaper “fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting (Syrian President Bashar) Assad.”

Yet intelligence agencies still are mum. The CIA declined comment on Tuesday. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also declined to discuss it. The tweet was a topic of chatter among staffers on Capitol Hill, but even there, lawmakers refused to comment publicly because in their minds, the program is still classified.

“Technically I doubt that the tweet would constitute declassification, though it appears to be a disclosure of classified information,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the government secrecy project at the Federation of American Scientists.

This isn’t the first instance that Trump has casually disclosed classified information. In May, Trump shared intelligence about an Islamic State threat involving laptops carried on airplanes with Russia’s foreign minister and Moscow’s ambassador to Washington in an Oval Office meeting.

A president is authorized by law to declassify anything he wants. It’s not against the law when he does it. In January 2012, for example, former President Barack Obama officially acknowledged the classified CIA drone program to kill terror suspects.

The Syrian program, which was started by Obama, was aimed at putting pressure on Assad to relinquish power. The CIA began the covert operation in 2013 to arm, fund and train a moderate opposition to Assad.

For years, the CIA effort had foundered and some lawmakers had proposed cutting its budget. Some CIA-supported rebels had been captured; others had defected to extremist groups. But in late 2015, CIA-backed groups, fighting alongside more extremist factions, had begun to make progress in south and northwest Syria.

Last week at a conference in Colorado, Gen. Raymond Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, did acknowledge the program’s existence — and that it had ended.

At the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of intelligence, homeland security and foreign policy officials and experts, Thomas said he thought the decision to end the program was not a conciliatory gesture to Russia, which opposed it, but was based on the program’s utility.

“It was, I think, based on assessment of the nature of the program, what we’re trying to accomplish, the viability of it going forward, and a tough, tough decision,” Thomas said.