Monday, May 30, 2005

 

The Case of the Allegedly Masturbating Judge


This story comes from Bubba's World (a compilation of all things Oklahoman), which tells the very long full story in all its lurid details here. It can be summarized as follows:

On June 23, 2004 Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed a petition with the Court of the Judiciary of the State of Oklahoma seeking the removal of Judge Donald D. Thompson from the bench on the basis of violation of multiple Canons of the Code of Judicial Ethics.

Thompson, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Law School and a state representative from 1974 to 1980, was appointed to the Creek County District Court by then-Governor George Nigh in 1982.

Edmonson's petition contained the following allegations:

1. Lisa K. Foster, a court reporter, said she had repeatedly seen Judge Thompson masturbating in court with the use of a penis pump. Several times, said Foster, she saw Thompson applying lotion to his penis, and on one occasion she saw him shaving his penis with a disposable razor. These incidents occurred during both jury and non-jury trials, Foster noted.

2. Dianna Lynn Strickland, a court clerk whose husband worked as a janitor at the court, said that her husband had found a penis pump under Judge Thompson's bench.

3. Zelma Hindman, Judge Thompson's secretary, said she had several times found semen in the judge's trash can. She had seen the penis pump, she said-- sometimes in the judge's office but most of the time under his bench. Occasionally she heard the pump in use (both in the judge's office and the courtroom), and once she saw the pump in the judges lap and thought she saw his penis.

4. Sapulpa, OK Police Chief James I. Wall said that during a first-degree murder trial in Judge Thompson's court on August 22, 2003 he was seated in a front row seat in the courtroom and heard a sound he likened to "air being pumped and released similar to a blood pressure cuff."

5. Police sergeant Michael Reed said that the next day, while he testifying as a witness in the trial, he heard a sound like air coming from an air pump, turned in his chair and saw Judge Thompson with his elbows on his knees. There was a white plastic-looking device in the judge's right hand, said Reed, and the judge's hand was moving up and down. Reed also said that a section of the device disappeared between the judge's legs beneath his robe and that when the judge's hand would move Reed would hear the "ch-ch" sound. During a break in the trial Reed saw the device was a penis pump and took pictures of it.

6. A juror at the same trial told Foster, the court reporter, that she heard a "popping" sound and asked Foster if she knew what it was. Foster told investigators that she confronted the judge and he replied "I don't know what they are talking about. Do You?"

After the dismissal petition became public, Thompson's attorney claimed the incident was the result of a gag gift given to the judge, and that Thompson was "horrified" by the allegations against him.

But Helen Orcutt, the jury foreman at the murder trial, told the Daily Oklahoman that the judge was "masturbating, plain and simple." "You could see his robe moving back and forth," Orcutt was elsewhere quoted. "It was drawing our attention away from what we were supposed to be doing. We all had the same conclusion -- he was pumping himself up. You could tell by the gestures."

In August of 2004, just days before he was scheduled to face a pre-trial hearing on the petition to oust him from office, Thompson submitted a letter of retirement to Governor Brad Henry. Once the retirement letter was submitted, the ouster petition filed against Thompson was dismissed and Thompson became eligible for an $88,800 annual pension for life. Thompson continued to deny the masturbation allegations and blamed Sapulpa Police Chief Jim Wall for being "the architect of this treachery."

But the issue did not die there. In January 2005, Thompson's former courtroom and chambers were searched by an investigator for the District Attorney and an agent of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation executing a search warrant. Media reports indicated that the investigators seized a sample of carpet from under Thompson's bench, fabric from his courtroom chair, a trash can, substances swabbed from wood and a light switch under the judge's bench, carpet shavings, cloth from a chamber chair and two judge's robes.

On January 20, 2005, Thompson was charged with three felony counts of indecent exposure, alleged to have occurred on May 13, 2003, August 22, 2003 and September 11, 2003 in Judge Thompson's chambers or in his courtroom during both civil and criminal trials-- two of which were murder trials.

A jury trial has been tentatively scheduled for September 26, 2005. Thompson faces up to 10 years in prison and a possible $20,000 fine on each of the three counts.


As Bubba's World notes, if the Thompson is found guilty, then hundreds of convictions-- including murder charges-- could be overturned. If the judge is found not-guilty, then he has been the victim of a truly vast conspiracy on the part of law enforcement.

"Regardless of whether he did or did not masturbate in court," says Bubba's World, "the implications for Oklahoma's criminal justice system are immense and honestly few if any seem to give a damn."

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

 

Ex-pastor charged with sex abuse


SALISBURY, MD -- A church minister and former private school employee continues to be investigated on charges of sex abuse of a minor, police said Wednesday.

Julian "Jay" Benson Shelburne Jr., 40, of Salisbury was charged Monday with third- and fourth-degree sex offenses, perverted practice, sex abuse of a minor and second-degree assault, according to the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office.

Police said Shelburne is suspected of committing the offenses against a minor during a four-month span beginning in January and ending in April. Police did not indicate the age of the female victim.

Wicomico County District Court charging documents for Shelburne's case were not made available Wednesday.

Salisbury School officials confirmed that Shelburne had worked part-time at the Hobbs Road School until recently. A few days after the arrest, some people who knew Shelburne were surprised about the accusations.

An acquaintance of Shelburne, who asked not to be identified, said allegations seemed out of character for the man who had served as pastor of Community Christian Church on Nanticoke Road.

"It just doesn't sound like him," she said. "I hope it's not true."

Ken Dasher, who serves as an elder for Community Christian Church, said he was not going to comment on Shelburne's charges until after conferring with other church members.

Shelburne was being held at Wicomico County Detention Center on $50,000 bond Wednesday.


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Pastor Arrested, Charged With Sexual Abuse


COLUMBUS, OH--Maurice Jackson, pastor of the New Generation Church in Northeast Columbus, was arrested Friday and charged with gross sexual imposition, and corrupting a minor.

The charges stem from allegations that he sexually molested a little girl. The victim's mother says that Jackson repeatedly molested her daughter over a four-year period, starting when she was seven years old.

The girl claims that the molesting occurred at a mutual friend's house, and also said that Jackson threatened if she told anybody he would kill her mother.


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Friday, May 27, 2005

 

Arrest warrant issued for rabbi accused of child molestation, sexual abuse


PRESCOTT, Ariz. A felony warrant has been issued for the arrest of a rabbi accused of child molestation and sexual abuse.

Yavapai County prosecutors say 55-year-old David Lipman faces eleven counts of child molestation and five counts of sexual abuse.

The charges stem from an investigation involving two girls, ages 16 and 14.


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Judge blames porn site visits on stress


TOPEKA - Sobbing at times, Saline County District Judge George Robertson on Wednesday said stress from his duties as a church elder and a caseload of more than 3,000 cases a year caused him to view Internet porn sites on his county-owned office computer.

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Rape as a family value


Father, son face trial in child rapes

Wichita,Kansas-- A father and son are headed to trial, accused of raping three girls in the family.

The mother of the three girls, meanwhile, has pleaded guilty to three counts of endangering a child, admitting knowledge of what was happening inside her family's home near Harry and Webb Road during the past two years.

Another son faces a court proceeding today.


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4 Tenn. lawmakers arrested in bribery probe


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Four Tennessee lawmakers, a former lawmaker and two others were indicted Thursday amid a federal investigation into the business dealings of a state senator from Memphis from a powerful political family, officials said.

The defendants are charged with taking bribes from undercover investigators to influence legislation concerning a bogus company set up by the FBI. The company, called E-Cycle Management Inc., purported to be a recycler of outdated electronic equipment.

“We hope it will bring back some of the trust back to state government,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said.

Those charged included the senator, John Ford; fellow Sens. Kathryn Bowers and Ward Crutchfield; state Rep. Chris Newton; and former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon. Newton is a Republican and the others are Democrats. Calls to the legislators’ offices Thursday were not immediately returned.


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Thursday, May 26, 2005

 

7 teachers quit to protest firing of colleague


EAST LYNNE, Mo. -- Seven of 10 classroom teachers in a tiny school district resigned after a colleague was fired for helping an 11-year-old girl who was left alone in a playground to pick up rocks as punishment.

The fourth-grader in the East Lynne School District in Cass County was assigned the task last September for refusing to do her schoolwork, but she was unsupervised except for a security camera. The playground was near a road but inside a fence.

Objected to girl's punishment

The fired teacher, Christa Price, went to the principal -- who is also the district superintendent -- and asked him to reconsider the punishment, but he wouldn't. So on her free period, Price helped the girl pick up rocks. Other teachers watched the girl the next day.

At contract time in March, Supt. Dan Doerhoff recommended firing Price, a popular teacher with good performance evaluations, for insubordination. Seven other teachers chose not to return their contracts.

''If a teacher who advocates on behalf of safety of a student is not fit to be a teacher at East Lynne or anywhere in Missouri according to this administration, then none of us are fit to teach at East Lynne,'' the teachers who resigned said Tuesday in a statement.

One of the teachers who resigned, Jenny Neemann, said having a security camera on the area where the girl worked wasn't enough.

''Somebody could have nabbed her in 10 seconds,'' she said.

Doerhoff has since dropped the punishment of picking up rocks because of the uproar.


(Thanks to A.J. for the tip.)

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Crosses burned, Klan fliers posted in N.C. city


'I thought we'd be beyond that,' says Durham mayor, who obviously isn't paying attention:

DURHAM, N.C. - Three large crosses were burned in separate spots around the city during a span of just over an hour, and yellow fliers with Ku Klux Klan sayings were found at one location, police said.

The cross burnings Wednesday night marked the first time in recent memory that one of the South’s most notorious symbols of racial hatred has been seen in the city.

“At this day and time, I thought we’d be beyond that,” said Mayor Bill Bell. “People do things for different reasons, and I don’t have the slightest idea why anyone would do this.”

The first burning was reported at 9:19 p.m. outside St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The next came at 9:54 p.m. atop a large pile of dirt near an apartment complex construction site; the third was at 10:28 p.m. at a downtown intersection.

Police said each cross was about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide and made of four 2-by-4s. They were wrapped in burlap and doused in a liquid that smelled like kerosene.

Burning a cross without the permission of the property owner is a misdemeanor in North Carolina. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that, under the First Amendment, cross burning could be barred only when done with the intent to intimidate.

Cross burnings have been associated with the Ku Klux Klan since the early 20th century. The first known cross burning occurred when a Georgia mob celebrated a lynching, according to the high court decision.

Bell said he couldn’t recall a cross burning in Durham since he arrived in 1968. He said his office had not received any correspondence suggesting someone might target the city with cross burnings.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

'Financial Pastor' Pleads Guilty in Scam


ROANOKE, Va. -- A man who conducted investment seminars at churches, billing himself as the "financial pastor," pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of bilking Christian investors out of nearly $20 million.

William T. Warren, 53, agreed to a 21-year sentence on the day his federal trial was to have started. The judge scheduled a hearing Sept. 19 to decide whether to accept the plea agreement.

Warren pleaded guilty to mail fraud, securities fraud and embezzlement. He targeted people at churches and religious organizations and ran a Web site that said he wanted people to "achieve victory and godliness in their finances," according to court documents in the case.

Warren persuaded people to invest their life savings, promising rates of return of up to 40 percent, according to FBI agent Dave Frey. Instead, he operated a scheme in which he paid investors who had been with him longer with money he received from new investors, prosecutors said.

Warren also used investors' funds for personal expenses, according to the indictment.

Churchgoers in several states, including Alabama, Nevada, Virginia and Washington, were victims. Most of the investors were from Washington.

Warren, who remains in jail because he is deemed a flight risk, faced up to 60 years in jail and more than $5 million in fines if convicted at a trial. He has been in jail since his January 2004 arrest.


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Dead Woman Accuses Church Of Sexual Abuse In Documents


This might be another Louisiana Church-type story in the making:

ASHTABULA, Ohio -- In this tight-knit northeast Ohio city, the death of Carolyn Clark on Mother's Day weekend was story enough: Police said her estranged husband beat her head with the stock of a rifle in front of the youngest five of their 13 children.

But then talk intensified as news spread about legal papers Carolyn Clark had filed in a custody dispute she won a few days before her death, accusing leaders of the couple's church of sexual and physical abuse against members, including children. Clark said she was trying to get her young children away from the church, which she accused of brainwashing her husband and older children.

Now prosecutors are investigating whether the Apostolic Church Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly had any role in her death. Social service officials are looking into the abuse allegations.

"This murder happened, and it might have kicked over a rock and there's some sunlight shining down now," Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas L. Sartini said.

No charges have been filed against leaders of the country church.

Its bishop, Charles Keyes, has repeatedly declined to comment.

Clark's five adult children told The Star Beacon the church had nothing to do with her death. They said their mother had been abusive, beating them, burning them with a clothes iron and forcing them to eat vomit as punishment.

The small, white, wood-frame church sits on a grassy lot amid a scattering of trees and modest homes, near a well-traveled country road in Jefferson Township. The small community is just south of Ashtabula, a Lake Erie coastal city of 20,000 people about 60 miles east of Cleveland.

The mystery has captured the attention of residents.

"I do hear a lot of stuff, but here it's the headline news and the big topic and it's like everybody is wondering what's next," said Betty Holman, owner of Betty's Beauty Shop, where Carolyn Clark was a customer.

Ashtabula County Children Services is investigating the accusations of abuse at the church. "Since Carolyn Clark's death there have been more people come forward. People still aren't as forthcoming as you would hope," said investigator Mike Rose.

Past and current members, including those recently at the church doing groundskeeping, cleaning and other chores, refused to speak to an Associated Press reporter, and Clark's older children no longer speak to the media. Music-filled services where members wear suits and long dresses have been closed to most outsiders.

The mystery began May 7, when Carolyn Clark, 43, was killed in a house where she was staying with her youngest children. Her estranged husband, Ralph Clark, 43, has pleaded innocent to a charge of aggravated murder and remains jailed. His attorney, Hobart Shiflet, did not return messages seeking comment.

"We may never know what went through his head that night," Terrance Clark told The Star Beacon about his father. "All I know is my father is the most kindhearted, wonderful man and he would never hurt anyone."

News broke a few days later about Carolyn Clark's court statement, filed six weeks earlier. The statement tells this story:

She and her family had been devoted members of the congregation. But she grew angry with the church, blaming it for her family problems and alleging she was forced to have sex with Bishop Keyes and was beaten by church members with a belt.

The statement also said that during an argument Oct. 6, when Ralph Clark disregarded her claim of sexual abuse, Carolyn Clark threw ceramic figurines and a plastic foam plate with food at him.

Ralph Clark filed domestic violence charges and later filed for divorce to end their 22-year marriage, winning custody at first.

A juvenile court judge who gave custody to Carolyn Clark based the decision in part on the statement.

Sheryl Cerni, who knew Carolyn Clark for eight years, said she last spoke with her friend by telephone the day before she died. She said Clark was worried about her husband.

"She had hopes he was going to be all right but that he was confused," said Cerni, administrative assistant at West Junior High School.

She said Carolyn Clark was a dedicated mother. "Those kids weren't dressed trendy, but they were well dressed and no problem in school," Cerni said. "Her kids were her life; they were her whole world."

Keyes' aunt, Ora Tyus, 78, said her nephew broke ranks three years ago with a general assembly of apostolic churches, based in Franklin, Va., when he insisted on being named a bishop and was rejected.

A telephone number for the assembly's headquarters church consistently went unanswered.

Jane Hawn-Jackson, Carolyn Clark's lawyer, said she has been fielding calls from church members and former members she said are afraid for their safety if they tell what they know about the church. She has referred some to domestic violence counselors. She refused to identify the callers.

"These people whisper and don't want to talk to anyone else," Hawn-Jackson said.


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Church sign sparks debate


I mentioned below I lived in the heartland for a spell. While there, I drove around the Arkansan countryside, taking pictures of various outrageous/funny/absurd, etc. church signs. I'll post the entire collection here just as soon as I can, but are generally of the same ilk as this:

FOREST CITY, N.C. -- A sign in front of a Baptist church on one of the most traveled highways in the county stirred controversy over religious tolerance and first-amendment rights this weekend.

A sign in front of Danieltown Baptist Church, located at 2361 U.S. 221 south reads "The Koran needs to be flushed," and the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the church, is not apologizing for the display.

"I believe that it is a statement supporting the word of God and that it (the Bible) is above all and that any other religious book that does not teach Christ as savior and lord as the 66 books of the Bible teaches it, is wrong," said Lovelace. "I knew that whenever we decided to put that sign up that there would be people who wouldn't agree with it, and there would be some that would, and so we just have to stand up for what's right."

Seema Riley, a Muslim, who was born in Pakistan and reared in New York, was one of those upset by the sign.

She moved to Rutherford County for the "small town friendly" atmosphere, she said. When she saw the sign on the side of the highway Saturday she felt angered and threatened.

"We need a certain degree of tolerance," said Riley. "That sign doesn't really reflect what I think this county is about."

She said that according to Islamic faith, a follower does not even touch the Koran without going through a ritual cleansing. Muslims believe the physical book to be a sacred item that is treated with respect and reverence, much like the image of Jesus in Christianity, according to a report on National Public Radio.

"For someone to put that sign up -- the person just didn't understand -- didn't take into consideration what putting up that sign means," said Riley. "I don't think it should be posted on a sign in public viewing on the highway to create a hostile environment for me."

The appearance of the sign follows a national news story from last week. Newsweek magazine retracted a story reporting that military guards at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet during interrogation of a detainee. The Newsweek story sent Washington in a frenzy and was blamed for igniting Muslim riots and deaths abroad, including a particularly violent outburst in Afghanistan.

"Our creed as a Christian, or a Protestant, or a Baptist church -- of course we don't have a creed but the bible -- but we do have the Baptist faith and message that says that we should cling to the 66 books of the Holy Bible and any other book outside of that claiming to know the way of God or claiming to be God's word is automatically written off and is trying to defeat people from the way of true righteousness inside of our viewpoint in how we view the word of God," Lovelace said.

"Putting such a sign in a public place is an un-American example of intolerance, of aggressive disrespect for other citizens' deeply held views," said Donald Searing, Burton Craige Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "This is the sort of attitude and action that seriously endangers the liberty which lies at the heart of our democracy. It is also a good reminder that just because one may have the legal right to say something, doing so may not be morally, socially or politically desirable."

When Lovelace was asked whether he considered before he put the sign up that there may be some consequences or that some people may be angered, he said he was aware of the likelihood of angering some people.

"Well, I thought about it and I said there may be people who are offended by it but the way I look at it, Jesus told his followers that if the world hates you, don't feel bad because they hated me first," said Lovelace. "If we stand for what is right and for God's word and for Christianity then the world is going to condemn us and so right away when I got a complaint I said 'well somebody's mad, somebody's offended, so we must be doing something right.'"

Danieltown Baptist Church belongs to the Sandy Run Baptist Association and the association's Director of Missions the Rev. Jim Diehl said that Lovelace's opinion does not necessarily reflect that of that organization.

"Each of the churches of the Sandy Run Baptist Association are autonomous bodies," said Diehl. "Each church can develop a stance on doctrinal issues and can develop its own stance on moral issues."

The Rev. Billy Honeycutt, of the Green River Baptist Association said that he hopes that those who see the sign keep tolerance in mind.

"Respecting religion is important and respecting other people is important," said Honeycutt. "Hopefully, a lot of people will have that thought when they see the sign."

Following the religious controversy at a church in Waynesville where several members were asked to leave in what was termed a dispute over politics, several groups threatened to boycott the entire town due to the actions of one preacher.

Director of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Bill Hall said he does not think that the Danieltown sign will have a negative impact on the county's tourism or economic vitality.

"It is unfortunate that things like that happen and it certainly doesn't represent Rutherford County," said Hall. "I think that most people will understand that that is not a common attitude in this community."

Lovelace said he felt it was the work of God to display the sign and that no one in the church has spoken up against it to him.

He said the church has 55 members on the roster and he has only received one angry phone call since the sign was posted.

"We have a good group of people," said Lovelace.

Lovelace said the sign changes every week.

"About Friday or Saturday we will have a new sign," he said. "It should state to some effect 'Where are your treasures? Are they at the flea market or are they in heaven?'"

Lovelace said that he does not have anything against the flea market that recently opened up down the street from the church.

"I enjoy a good flea market, but if people can be down there at eight o'clock why can't they be at church at 11," he said.


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Girl In Yearbook Identified Only As 'Black Girl'


When I lived in the heartland, I was repeatedly told that racism was "all in the past." Well, just another story to put the lie to that:

WAXAHACHIE, Texas. -- A Texas school district is having four pages of its high school yearbook reprinted to correct a photo caption that identified a student only as "Black Girl."

Waxahachie High School plans to rip out and replace the pages identifying National Honor Society student Shadoyia Jones as "Black Girl." All white students are identified by name in the photograph.

The district apologized for the mistake after the yearbooks were distributed.

Jones said the recall won't change her hurt feelings.

"It was there, everyone saw it so it doesn't cut down on the embarrassment," Jones said. "It's not going to change anything."

"They know those children," mom Valerie Pointer said. "They know their names, if they didn't know her first name, they knew her last name. If they knew her last name they knew her first name. They knew her name."

The label apparently was meant to be a placeholder until the yearbook staff could track down the student's name, district spokeswoman Candace Ahlfinger said.

Students will be asked to bring in their yearbooks so the old pages can be torn out and the new ones glued in, Ahlfinger said. The district expects to have the reprinted pages by Wednesday, according to the report.


(Thanks to Bob for the heads-up.)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

 

Wife pleads with jury to give pastor probation in sex assault


San Antonio--The wife of a former pastor convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl more than a dozen years ago asked jurors Monday to grant her husband probation...

Duane Hammons, a former pastor of The Church of God in Christ, was convicted of having sex with a teenage choirgirl while she was a freshman and sophomore at Holmes High School. The girl, now 27, testified the relationship began in 1992 when she was 15.

Hammons had been asked by congregants to counsel the teen because she was having trouble at home and didn't have many friends, said prosecutors Krista Melton and Rose Zebell.

The victim testified that Hammons would pick her up from school and take her to cheap motels to have sex.


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Monday, May 23, 2005

 

As American as... Viagra


For all the heartland's uneasiness with sexulaity, Viagra sure does pop up a lot:

Mother charged in abuse

A young girl's call for help to her grandmother resulted in the arrest of a man and a woman who are accused of abusing the woman's daughter, police said.

The woman, 28, was accused of photographing her 13-year-old daughter naked for profit and sending the pictures to the man, who is charged with raping the girl Saturday night.

Erik Hull, 35, was charged with aggravated sexual assault on a child and was being held on $500,000 bond in Bexar County Jail. Hull is from Pasadena, a suburb of Houston.

The mother, who is not being named to avoid identifying the daughter, was charged with promoting child pornography and also was held on a half-million-dollar bond...

...Hull told officers he met the mother on the Internet and that a trip Saturday was the third time he visited her in San Antonio.

Hull told police the mother gave him two Viagra pills and some blood pressure medicine and that they went shopping with the girl.

According to the report, Hull claimed he felt lightheaded on the drive back and pulled into a car wash parking lot.

The mother then performed a sex act on Hull while the girl rubbed his head, according to the report.

Hull told officers the mother then suggested a three-way sexual encounter with the daughter, the report said.


N.Y. audit shows sex offenders get Viagra

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Scores of convicted rapists and other high-risk sex offenders in New York have been getting Viagra paid by Medicaid for the last five years, the state's comptroller said Sunday.

Audits by Comptroller Alan Hevesi's office showed that between January 2000 and March 2005, 198 sex offenders in New York received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after their convictions. Those included crimes against children as young as 2 years old, he said.


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Saturday, May 21, 2005

 

Former pastor found guilty of sex assault


In San Antonio:

A former church pastor was convicted of sexual assault of a child Friday for a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl more than a dozen years ago.

Duane Hammons, 47, was found guilty on four charges of sexual assault of a child and two charges of indecency with a child by contact.

The jury found him not guilty of two counts of indecency with a child by contact.

He faces up to 20 years in prison, but may be granted probation.

The charges stem from four sexual encounters that took place from 1992 to 1994, when the now 28-year-old woman was a freshman and sophomore in high school.

Hammons, a former pastor of The Church of God in Christ, was asked by congregants to counsel the teen.

The woman testified that Hammons would pick her up from Holmes High School and take her to motels to have sex.

Defense attorney George Taylor told jurors the woman was 17, the legal age of consent, at the time the sexual relationship took place.

The trial's penalty phase begins Monday.

The woman's name is being withheld because the San Antonio Express-News does not reveal the identity of sex crime victims.


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Three charged in gay murder case to be tried as adults


More Christian protesters at the funeral of a murdered gay man, in Alabama:

Three young people charged in the slaying of a gay teenager will be tried as adults in capital murder trials.

Christopher Ryan Gaines, 20, Nichole Kelsay, 19, and Robert Holly Lofton Porter, 19, entered not guilty pleas Thursday after a Baldwin County Circuit Court judge denied their requests for youthful offender status in separate arraignments.

Scotty Joe Weaver was beaten, stabbed, strangled and his body burned in woods near his mobile home on July 18, 2004, according to investigators...

The case has drawn interest from gay rights groups, and hundreds of mourners attended a vigil for Weaver in Mobile. Anti-gay groups picketed outside the Crossroads Church of God, where Weaver's funeral was held.


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Friday, May 20, 2005

 

Family values, heartland style


In San Antonio:

Daughter arrested in mother's slaying

Police believe a 62-year-old woman stabbed her mother to death Thursday before she attacked her younger sister with a hammer as the two siblings pored over Mother's Day cards.

Rosemary Granados Kamplain was charged with murder and aggravated assault.

She was held on a $125,000 bond at Bexar County Jail.

The sad chain of events began early Thursday when a driver for an adult day-care center found Susie Granados, 80, dead from stab wounds in her apartment bedroom at about 8:15 a.m. when he went to pick her up.

The driver told police he saw blood on the sidewalk and on the front door and went in through the unlocked door to check on the woman.

Investigators believe Kamplain called a taxi after the slaying so she could go home to change, said San Antonio Police Department spokeswoman Sandy Gutierrez.

Kamplain showed up at her sister's apartment on the 5300 block of Blanco Road around 8 a.m. to apologize for a previous argument and to show her Mother's Day cards, a police report said.

While her sister, Gena Wythe, 60, sat on the couch reading a card, Kamplain pulled a hammer out of her beige handbag and whacked her in the head, the report said.

Wythe fought back but Kamplain hit her again in the hand and bit her arm, the report said.

Wythe was taken to University Hospital in good condition.

Police discovered Kamplain outside her sister's apartment, disoriented and mumbling to herself.

According to the police report, the woman said she didn't remember any such incident.

When the officer asked for identification, Kamplain opened the purse. Inside was a hammer and a bloody pair of scissors.

Investigators linked Kamplain to the early-morning slaying while she was being processed in the attack against her sister, Gutierrez said.

Friends said a daughter had been staying with Granados at her residence inside the Christ the King Apartments, a complex for the elderly in the 4500 block of West Martin Street.

Pauline Sanchez, who said she cared for Granados on weekday afternoons, broke down crying when she arrived at the complex and found out she had been killed.

"How can they do that to her?" she asked.


In Oswego, N.Y.:

A 25-year-old woman was charged with trying to hire a man to kill her ex-husband, and police say she used one of his credit cards to pay for the would-be hit man's flight from Australia.

Police Capt. Michael Dehm said it was a report of an unauthorized $2,824 credit card charge from the ex-husband that led authorities to Terra L. Endres, 25.


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Christians and kiddie porn


Priest may plead guilty in porn case

Rochester, NY-- A Catholic priest accused of transporting and possessing child pornography may plead guilty, his attorney said Monday.

The Rev. Michael Volino, 41, is accused of possessing hundreds of images of child pornography on a computer.


(Thanks to Joe)

In Iowa City:

Priest convicted of child pornography hired by diocese

A Roman Catholic priest who was convicted last year of using a church computer to download child pornography has been hired on to the maintenance staff at the Davenport Diocese, church officials say.

The Rev. Richard Poster, the former director of liturgy and publisher of the newspaper for the diocese, pleaded guilty in August 2003 to receiving pictures of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He was sentenced to one year in federal prison and was released earlier this year.


In Alabama:

Former Headmaster Pleads Not Guilty to Child Porn

A former principal who's pleaded not guilty to federal charges of child porn is also being investigated in 2 cases of sex abuse in the Valley. Alan Webster's attorney says he and his client haven't heard from the Madison County District Attorney's office on those allegations yet but they do know the claims have been made.

Webster, former headmaster at Huntsville Christian Academy, made his initial court appearance in Birmingham Wednesday. He is free on bond.



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Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

Details emerge from Louisiana church sex story


Ponchatoula church cult cited in child rape, animal sex case

By DEBRA LEMOINE
Advocate staff writer

HAMMOND, Louisiana-- Authorities arrested a Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's deputy and a self-proclaimed minister Tuesday as part of a six-week investigation into the alleged cult-like practices of a Ponchatoula church that included having sex with children and animals, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said Wednesday.
Deputies also arrested a third man early Wednesday morning for aggravated rape of a juvenile and seized computers and a carpet sample at the church Tuesday night, Edwards said.

Investigators believe a splinter group of the Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula formed a cult whose practices included having sex with children and animals from 1999 until the church disbanded in 2003, Edwards said.

Five victims have been interviewed so far, and investigators believe there are more potential victims. The victims range in age from infants to teens and include boys and girls, Edwards said.

Edwards said some cult members are parents of the victims. The parents either knew about the alleged abuse or harmed their own children, he said.

He said the animal victims are cats and dogs.

Edwards said that the minister is likely the leader of the group, but investigators have not confirmed that yet.

The alleged acts also don't appear to be a part of the regular worship of the church and took place in classrooms on the church property and not in the sanctuary, he said.

Not all members of the church knew about the alleged sexual acts, Edwards said.

Authorities searched the church Tuesday night and turned the two computers and the carpet sample over to the State Police Crime Lab, Edwards said. The lab is checking the computers for evidence of child pornography.

Two of the men in custody and the victims have told investigators some sexual acts were recorded, Edwards said.

The investigation began six weeks ago when a woman in Columbus, Ohio, contacted Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's authorities about sexual misconduct involving her child. The woman told deputies she fled Louisiana several months ago to protect her child after finding out about the sexual acts of some members of the Hosanna Church.

The woman waited until a week ago to provide detailed accounts of the alleged crimes and told deputies the FBI had requested she postpone talking to them, Edwards said. The FBI is involved because the crimes potentially include child pornography, Edwards said.

In the meantime, Louis Lamonica, 45, of Holden, surrendered to Livingston Parish sheriff's deputies Monday. Lamonica is the former minister of the Hosanna Church and confessed to having sex with children and animals. Labat was booked into the Livingston Parish jail on two counts of aggravated rape and one count of crime against nature.

Authorities in Tangipahoa Parish arrested Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputy Christopher Blair Labat, 24, of Lumino Lane, Hammond, on Tuesday afternoon on counts of aggravated rape and malfeasance in office.

Labat, a patrol deputy hired in January 2004, was fired from his job the same day of his arrest, Edwards said. Authorities included the malfeasance count because as a sworn officer, Labat should have reported the alleged crimes, Edwards said.

Labat is isolated and on suicide watch in the Tangipahoa Parish jail as a precaution, Edwards said.

The third suspect, Austin Aaron Bernard III, 36, of Southwest Railroad Ave., was arrested early Wednesday morning and confessed to having sex with a juvenile under age 13 around November 2002, deputies said.

He was booked into the parish jail on aggravated rape.

Additional arrests and counts against the men are expected in the coming weeks, Edwards said.

The investigation involves multiple agencies, including the Tangipahoa and Livingston parish sheriffs, the Ponchatoula Police Department and the FBI.


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2 officers fired in camera-phone incident


Two Houston police officers accused of involvement in the downloading of nude photographs from a DWI suspect's camera phone have been fired, police officials confirmed Wednesday.

Chief Harold Hurtt indefinitely suspended officers Christopher Green and George Miller late last week after a four-month investigation, a Houston Police Department spokesman said. Indefinite suspension is tantamount to firing in HPD.

The firings could affect dozens of driving-while-intoxicated cases that have not yet come to trial. Green, a 10-year HPD veteran, and Miller, who joined the force in 1997, were assigned to the department's DWI task force.

The officers and their union attorney could not be reached for comment. It was not clear Wednesday whether they had appealed their termination to the city Civil Service Commission.

The firings of Green, 34, and Miller, 38, stemmed from an incident in November when they stopped and arrested a female college student on a DWI charge. The 26-year-old woman is a native of China who speaks little English, her attorney said.

According to a probable-cause request for a warrant to search Green's home, Green transferred nude photos of the woman from her cellular phone to his personal digital assistant.

Court records did not indicate whether the PDA found in Green's home contained the photos. However, the document stated that Green later showed the photos to other law enforcement officers and courthouse personnel.

The warrant request also alleged that Miller left the woman a voice mail message suggesting that they meet at an Italian cafe.

Several Houston defense attorneys with clients who were arrested by Miller and Green on DWI charges have indicated they plan to use the camera-phone incident to challenge the two former officers' credibility.


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IOKIYAE (It's okay if you're an evangelical)


Salvadoran minister remains jailed here

Accused of lying on an application for a passport, he goes to court for a hearing today


By EDWARD HEGSTROM
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Edgar Lopez Bertrand, one of the most influential ministers in El Salvador, has been jailed in Houston while awaiting a hearing in federal district court today on charges of falsifying information on a passport application.

Lopez Bertrand, 65, was detained Monday after arriving at Bush Intercontinental Airport while in transit to Israel. His case has become front-page news in El Salvador, where he heads a church as well as a TV network and radio station.

His followers have started a campaign seeking his release, including the distribution of yellow ribbons and bumper stickers in El Salvador.

"We have given more than a thousand yellow ribbons as a way to show solidarity to our pastor," said the pastor's son, Edgar Lopez Bertrand Jr.

Lopez Bertrand, known in El Salvador as "Hermano Toby," has not been able to call his family in El Salvador from the federal detention center in Houston, his son said.

A representative of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston confirmed Lopez Bertrand is in custody but refused to comment on the conditions of his detention. Lopez Bertrand has been charged on a warrant out of Washington, D.C., said the spokeswoman, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Herrera.

A complaint out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleges Lopez Bertrand made a false statement on the application for a passport, Herrera said. The case has not yet gone before a grand jury for indictment. If convicted, Lopez Bertrand could face up to 10 years in prison.

On Jan. 27, Lopez Bertrand presented a false Salvadoran birth certificate to apply for a passport for a person whom he claimed as his daughter, according to the complaint. The girl is not Lopez Bertrand's biological daughter and has not been legally adopted by him, the complaint said.

The pastor is represented by a court-appointed federal public defender in Houston who did not return a call seeking comment.

Lopez Bertrand heads the Baptist Biblical Tabernacle Friends of Israel Church in San Salvador, an evangelical congregation that claims 200,000 followers.

Since Tuesday, followers have crowded into his church to pray for Hermano Toby's release.

News reports in El Salvador indicate Lopez Bertrand holds both Salvadoran and U.S. citizenship. The reports allege he attempted to apply for a passport for a girl who lives in an orphanage he runs by claiming her as his daughter.

A diplomatic representative from the Salvadoran Consulate in Houston was able to meet with Lopez Bertrand and confirm that he is in good health, a consulate spokeswoman said.

It was not immediately clear why the Salvadoran Consulate would visit Lopez Bertrand if he is a U.S. citizen.

The United States does not recognize dual citizenship. Those who hold U.S. citizenship are considered U.S. citizens only, according to the State Department.

Freelancer Alvaro Cruz Rojas contributed to this report from San Salvador.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

Rape, sex with children & animals in Louisiana


At a church, no less:

Tangipahoa Parish deputy accused of rape

A Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputy has been accused of rape in connection with an alleged attack on a juvenile, authorities said.

Christopher Blair Labat, 24, of Hammond, was arrested Tuesday following a monthlong investigation by deputies and the FBI. He was booked on one count of aggravated rape and jailed without bond, sheriff's spokesman Chuck Reed said Wednesday.

The investigation began with a call from a woman in Columbus, Ohio, who said she fled from Louisiana in fear for her child, said Reginald Bryant, a juvenile investigator for the sheriff's office.

The arrest was made in conjunction with the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office following Monday's arrest of a Holden man who was booked with two counts of aggravated rape and a charge of crime against nature.

Louis Lamonica, 45, was the pastor of Hosana Church in Ponchatoula at the time of the alleged assaults, deputies said. Livingston Parish authorities said that Lamonica told them he could implicate others in his church in alleged sexual acts with juveniles and animals that occurred about two years ago.

Labat was hired by the Tangipahoa Parish sheriff in January 2004 and assigned to the criminal patrol division.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

 

Prominent Pastor Accused Of Raping Congregant


EATONVILLE, Fla. -- Eyewitness News has discovered several more victims have come forward claiming a prominent Central Florida pastor raped them.

The list of potential victims continues to grow. Five people, so far, have accused bishop Lura Williams of sex crimes, including one woman who says he raped her over and over when she was only 11 years old.

In the tiny town of Eatonville, this stunning case has grown even more disturbing. A man of the cloth is accused of unspeakable acts and at least one alleged victim wasn't even in her teens.

The woman, now 41, told investigators Williams would take her into wooded areas in Sanford and have his way. She has only come forward now after watching the story on Channel 9.

Williams is in jail with no bond, accused of raping a congregant just last month. Monday, police impounded the RV where the woman says the 71-year-old pastor attacked her on April 26. She said Williams invited her over to talk church business, but instead forced her to have sex.

It's a similar story, police said, now told by as many as five woman. And, since Williams has been preaching at the Worldwide Revival Center since 1969, they fear they've just begun to scratch the surface of an outrageous case.

In fact, because Eatonville is such a small police department and victims are spread out as far as Seminole and Lake counties, they're asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to help with the investigation.

As for Williams, he's charged so far in connection with only one victim. From jail he declined an on-camera interview.

Lura Williams has several other arrests on his record. In 1990, he was arrested for aggravated assault with a weapon and battery. In 1995, Williams was charged with exhibiting a dangerous weapon. Then, in 2002, he was charged with aggravated battery causing bodily harm.


UPDATE (28 Ocotber, 2005): Williams was found not guilty of the molestation charged. While four other women have accused him of sexual misconduct, those allegations have not resulted in charges.

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Cop sex trial continues


A former Balcones Heights police officer testified Monday that he believed he would be fired if he didn't answer questions about an incident in which he and another officer were accused of sexually assaulting five women...

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Former city official admits she took bribes


Houston-- A former city administrator admitted in federal court Monday that she used her position to get illegal trips and gifts from companies doing business with Houston.

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City Councilman accused of beating son


CINCINNATI (AP) — Police arrested a Cincinnati city councilman early Saturday morning and charged him with domestic violence for allegedly beating his son.

Sam Malone, 34, pleaded innocent to the misdemeanor charge and was released from the Hamilton County Justice Center. His son is staying with a relative after a judge instituted a temporary restraining order prohibiting Malone from having contact with him.

Doctors contacted authorities after treating Malone's 14-year-old son at an area hospital Friday night. They reported they found welts and belt marks on the boy's body, said Laurie Petrie, a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services.

"For a child to be disciplined to the point of going to the hospital, we would be looking at that as possible abuse," she said.

Malone said what happened was a "parental intervention" after his son had a discipline problem at school.

"Our children cannot be expected to act in a disrespectful way to teachers and other individuals in positions of authority," he said in a prepared statement. "Proper discipline is an important and necessary component of good parenting."

Malone could be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail if he is convicted of the first-degree misdemeanor. City Solicitor J. Rita McNeil said she will request a special prosecutor handle the case because Malone is one of her supervisors.

Malone, a Republican, is scheduled to appear in court again May 31.


(Thanks to Cat.)

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Monday, May 16, 2005

 

Christian prison planned for Texas


Um, washing of the feet? Turning the other cheek? Forgiveness? Probably not:

SAN ANGELO, TX, United States (UPI) -- A privately operated prison to be run by employees with "a Christian world view" is on the drawing board in a Texas county.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that the commissioners in Tom Green County in West Texas have authorized construction of the Christian jail.

But a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told the newspaper that the state has no plans to send any inmates from its overcrowded prisons to such an institution.

County officials hope to fill the prison with inmates from other states, suggesting that they could volunteer to serve the last two years of their sentences in the prison. They also believe that using bond proceeds instead of tax revenues for construction will avert a constitutional challenge.


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Christians stealing from Christians


In Illinois:

In his 24 years running a Christian bookstore in Oak Park, Bob Walsh chalked up thousands of dollars in losses to shoplifters. The thieves even went as far as taking cases of leather-bound Bibles.

That's why Walsh was stunned last week when a padded envelope arrived in the mail. Inside was $2,000 -- 20 $100 bills, to be exact -- and an apology.

"This is money for the items I stole from your store many years ago," the note read. "I'm very sorry."...

He does not suspect any of the 100 workers he employed over the years, although he said he knows of at least three who ripped off the store. One employee even returned a box of items swiped while on the job.

Theft from the store was particularly bad a decade ago, when Walsh suspects the store was the target of a professional ring. The store finally installed a detection system, which cut down on the problem. But with typically only a few workers in the store at any one time, thieves sometimes got away with entire shelves of merchandise.


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Mom fed her baby raw meat and broke his bones


HARLINGEN, Texas — A mother accused of feeding her infant son raw meat and breaking bones in his arms and legs has pleaded guilty to multiple charges...

The couple fed the baby raw meat hoping he would contract a fatal E. coli infection. Martinez wanted the baby dead because the child "ruined her life," according to court documents.


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Sunday, May 15, 2005

 

Former Youth Pastor Charged with Having Sexual Relationship With Teen


Hamilton County, Indiana - A former Noblesville youth pastor is in trouble with the law. The Hamilton county prosecutor charged him with sexual misconduct with a minor.

For about three years, Bradley Storer worked with children at Faith Community Church. Now he's accused of hurting the kids he was supposed to protect.

“We are alleging for a time while he was youth pastor for a church he was engaged illicit sexual activity with a young lady there who was around fifteen years of age,” said Sonia Leerkamp, Hamilton County prosecutor. Storer faces five counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.


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Officer accused of child molestation released from prison


Elkhart County, IN - The Bristol police officer accused of child molestation was booked and released from the Elkhart County jail Saturday, after posting a $50,000 bond.

Bristol Police Captain Ronald Biller faces charges of child molestation, allegedly molesting a 12-year-old various times between March and August of 2004.


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Saturday, May 14, 2005

 

Mayor hopeful committed felony


The pastor running for mayor of Wrightsville pleaded guilty in federal court in 1996 to a felony count of extortion.

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Pastor Who Used Fear Of Devil To Get Sex Is Sentenced


SAN DIEGO -- A National City minister who held services in people's homes for 20 years was sentenced to probation, community service and was temporarily banned from working as a religious leader for using fear of the devil to coerce women in his congregation to have sex with him.

Carlos Valverde Romero was sentenced Thursday by San Diego Superior Court Judge William H. Kennedy after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to one felony count of violating the liberty of a person through the use of fear, intimidation or deceit as part of a plea bargain.

Romero, 59, will serve five years probation, perform 200 hours of community service and cannot work as a religious leader for five years.

Two former members of Romero's Apostolic Church testified last year that Romero forced them to have sex with him over several years by threatening to report their illegal immigration status to authorities or injure them. He told one woman he was sent by Jesus Christ to protect her from the devil.


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Pass Christian veteran police officer faces sex charges


PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. - The city's chief criminal investigator is facing up to 40 years in jail on sex charges.

Thomas Stephen Pustay, a 23-year law enforcement veteran, was placed in an isolated unit at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center following his arrest Wednesday night, Sheriff George H. Payne Jr. said...

Pustay has been accused of sexual battery and carnal knowledge of a family acquaintance. The charges involve an underaged girl, police said.


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Church hit with more sex charges


A Houston church is grappling with a second set of sex abuse charges in less than a year after a former choir director was arrested this week on molestation accusations.

Police on Wednesday arrested German Rojas Moreno, 43, a former parishioner and choir director at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church at 8200 Roos in southwest Houston.

That is the same church where another man alleged he was sexually abused by a seminary student in 1996 — a claim now the focus of a federal lawsuit that accuses Catholic officials, including the pope, of conspiring to cover up such crimes.

Moreno, of the 9200 block of Burdine, was arrested after he was accused of molesting five teenage boys, between 1996 and 2001, whose families he befriended at the church, investigators said. He is denying the allegations.

He was charged with two counts of indecency with a child, two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child, records show. He was released from jail after posting bonds totaling $60,000...

The police investigation began last month when the alleged victims, now adults, reported they were sexually abused by Moreno.

Three of the men are brothers from one family, Gallagher said, and the other two are brothers from another family. One man, unable to keep silent any longer, told his fiancee and mother of the abuse, which led to statements from the others.

The men said they were between 11 and 15 years old when the attacks occurred.

They claimed they were drugged and sexually assaulted while spending the night at Moreno's various residences after he befriended their families and gained their parents' trust, police said.

During visits to Moreno's homes, the boys were given white pills they were told were vitamins, police said. Gallagher said police believe those pills were really Xanax, a tranquilizer.

The men said the sexual assaults occurred while they were passed out from the medication.

They would later awaken to find their clothes removed or disarranged, or their private parts hurting, police said.


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Friday, May 13, 2005

 

Plot puts pastor in prison


A judge sentenced a California minister to prison Thursday for trying to extort millions of dollars from Celine Dion's husband.

Ae Ho Kwon, 52, was sentenced to a minimum of 28 months in prison for his conviction on charges of conspiracy, extortion and soliciting a bribe. He was not ordered to pay restitution.

Kwon, a Presbyterian minister from Pasadena, was convicted in March of devising an extortion plot targeting the singer's husband, Rene Angelil. Kwon's wife claimed Angelil raped her at a Las Vegas hotel in 2000.


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Children's Services employees named in rape case


How many times can one 14-year-old be victimized? Let's see: first, when two adult men (allegedly) rape her, and video-tape their handiwork; second, when a defense attorney uses her own confused sexuality against her; third, when a headline writer at the local television station writes, "DCS Rape Victim Agreed To Some Sex." From WREG, in Memphis:

DCS Rape Victim Agreed To Some Sex

MEMPHIS,TN - The 14-year-old girl at the center of the Department of Children's Services rape case stood before a judge - her voice and her body trembling. Not far away were the two men accused of raping her. 33-year-old Charles Sharpe, a Department of Children's Services employee and 21-year-old D'army Watson. The victim says she was raped in a DCS van by both men, made to have sex with another girl in the van while most of it was recorded on videotape.

The story got even more complex in court when defense attorneys asked the 14-year-old victim about her relationship with 21-year-old D'army Watson, a former foster child himself. The two were part of a group of foster kids who were speaking at a church the night of the alleged rapes.

I n court the victim admitted she told Watson she was 15 and agreed to have sex with him. But she didn't agree to being videotaped and having sex with other people in the van, including DCS employee, Charles Sharpe. She says Sharpe dropped Watson off then forced her to have sex with him and another female.

The judge found probable cause to charge Sharpe and Watson but because the girl agreed to have sex with the 21-year-old his bond was lowered to 10,000 dollars. The charges against him still stand. Tennessee law doesn't allow a child 14 years or under to consent to sex.


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Another reason to be afraid of clowns


(Fontana is out in the "safe" conservative LA suburbs, not anywhere near the immoral sin city...)

FONTANA - A 48-year-old man who worked throughout Southern California as a clown named Trim-Trim was arrested this week on suspicion of molesting two girls.

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U.S. soldiers, officials nabbed in cocaine sting


At the very top of the heartland mythological value ladder sits those in uniform-- the soldiers, police and government agents charged with enforcing America's version of morality. Alas, as events show, they are in reality as humanly flawed as the rest of the country:

FBI agents posing as cocaine traffickers in Arizona caught 16 current and former U.S. soldiers and law enforcement personnel who took $220,000 in bribes to help move the drugs through checkpoints, Justice Department officials said Thursday.

Those charged include a former Immigration and Naturalization Service inspector, a former Army sergeant, a former federal prison guard, current and former members of the Arizona Army National Guard and the state corrections department, and a Nogales, Ariz., police officer, officials said.

All 16 have agreed to plead guilty to being part of a bribery and extortion conspiracy, the result of the nearly 3½-year FBI sting, acting assistant attorney general John C. Richter and FBI agent Jana D. Monroe said. Monroe directs FBI operations in Arizona.

The single conspiracy count carries a maximum prison term of five years and a fine of $250,000. The 16 defendants have agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation, officials said.


See our complete collection of bad behavior at the hands of prison guards: Where did they learn that?

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

 

Middle school sex for meth trade


SALEM, Ore. — Up to a dozen girls at a middle school are suspected of trading sex with adult men in exchange for methamphetamine, police said.

Detectives have been working to identify the girls at Waldo Middle School, some as young as 12, and the men involved, police told KGW-TV in Portland.

The men likely will face rape charges, Officer Laura Seefeldt said.


Oh, not so bad, says the cops:

Police are downplaying television-news reports broadcast this week that Waldo Middle School students have been trading sex for methamphetamine.

Lt. Bill Kohlmeyer said late Tuesday that the reports were premature.

The reports were based on a school resource officer's acknowledgment that police wanted to interview students rumored to have traded sex for drugs. School resource officers are police officers assigned to work in schools.

A female student who admitted using drugs allegedly said that some of her friends also used meth and that some of them have traded sex for drugs, Kohlmeyer said.

"What we're looking into here is the suggestion that there are young girls, middle-school-age kids, who are using meth and may be exploited by adults and trading sex for drugs," Kohlmeyer said. "We are interested in talking to the girls that this other girl mentioned."


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Bail revoked; pastor rearrested


Ah, the good Pastor Bishop Terry Hornbuckle is back in the news:

FORT WORTH - Bail for Bishop Terry Hornbuckle, who is accused of sexually assaulting three female parishioners, was revoked Wednesday after he tested positive for drugs.

Hornbuckle, senior pastor of Agape Christian Fellowship in Arlington, was arrested Wednesday while reporting to a probation officer in downtown Fort Worth, said Jim Sinclair, assistant director of Tarrant County probation.


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Chattooga Pastor Arrested for Molesting Girl


A Chattooga County, Georgia man who was a pastor and foster parent is in jail today on charges of molesting a thirteen year old foster child. Pastor William Myles Phillips was arrested Sunday and charged with child molestation, aggravated child molestation and sodomy.

This after turning himself in to police and confessing to the crimes.

His three foster children have been removed from him home. A representative of Stepping Stone foster care agency says the girl is confused and upset. Stepping Stone only deals with children who have behavioral or emotional problems. Right now, the agency's main priority is to ensure that the girl doesn't develop any more problems as a result of this case.

Neighbors say he's only lived in his Summerville home on second avenue for a few months.

But according to police, for the last five months he has been molesting a thirteen year old girl.

Resident Carrie Patty told us she was shocked a pastor would do this and said she would change pastors or churches if something like this happened in her place of worship.


Perhaps Patty could go to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, orCampbell United Methodist Church, or Eastridge Park Christian Church, or Annunciation Catholic Church, or join up with the the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or....

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Jerry Hobbs, product of Texas


Turns out the Chicago-area stepdad charged with killing two eight-year-old girls is a <"a href="http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/3178328">product of Texas:"

The Texas ex-convict who confessed Wednesday to killing his own 8-year-old daughter and her friend in Illinois has a history of hair-trigger violence that started with a knife nearly 15 years ago in Wichita Falls and includes a prison stint for failing to attend anger management classes.

Jerry Hobbs, 34, remained jailed without bail in Waukegan, Ill., on charges of killing his daughter, Laura, and her 9-year-old friend Krystal Tobias during a confrontation over curfew. The two girls had been riding bikes into the early evening on Mother's Day in a park in suburban Chicago.

Hobbs told Illinois investigators in a videotaped confession he became upset after his daughter refused to obey him and return home on time. He also told them he believed she had stolen money from her mother, Sheila Hollabaugh, Hobbs' girlfriend of several years.

Illinois authorities said Hobbs told them how he first punched the girls and then stabbed them. Together, the girls received more than 30 stab wounds.

Hobbs had just moved to Illinois after being released from a Texas prison on April 12.

Texas records reveal that Hobbs has an extensive criminal record that includes 10 previous arrests.

"We've been dealing with him as an adult since 1990," Sgt. Cindy Walker of the Wichita Falls Police Department said Wednesday.


(Sad details follow in the article.)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

Cops: Woman tries arson to evict daughters


PEARL RIVER, La. (AP) -- A woman tried to evict her adult daughters by torching her house after they refused to give her money to buy cocaine, authorities said Tuesday.

Belinda Smith, 47, remained in the parish jail, booked with aggravated arson and aggravated criminal damage, sheriff's office spokesman James Hartman said.

"Belinda Smith admitted trying to burn the house and to assaulting her daughters, arguing the home is hers and she was therefore free to destroy it," he wrote in a news release.

He said deputies answered a disturbance call about 9 a.m. Saturday and found Gail Smith, 21, her 1-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Smith, and Tracie Smith, 19, outside the house.

They told deputies that their mother "had returned home after an all-night drug binge and insisted they give her money to acquire cocaine," Hartman wrote.

When they refused, they said their mother tried to hit them with a board. They ran into another room and called the sheriff's office.

Moments after the deputies began searching the neighborhood for Belinda Smith, her daughters called again. "They said their mother had poured gasoline onto a pile of laundry and attempted to ignite it," Hartman wrote. He said she also allegedly threatened to kill Tracie Smith with an axe handle.


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Anti-Muslim hate crimes up sharply


NEWARK, N.J. - The number of reported bias crimes and civil rights violations committed against Muslims in the United States soared to its highest level last year since the period immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a new report finds.

The report by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations blames lingering animosity toward Muslims and a growing use of anti-Muslim rhetoric by some political, religious and media figures for the increase.

The study, involving cases that were reported to the council by individuals and organizations, will be released Wednesday at a news conference in Washington, D.C. An advance copy was obtained by The Associated Press.

‘Rising Islamophobic rhetoric’

“We believe the disturbing rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes and in the total number of civil rights cases, both of which will be outlined in our news conference, can be attributed at least in part to rising Islamophobic rhetoric in American society,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, the council’s legal director.

The council counted 1,522 incidents in which Muslims reported their civil rights had been violated in 2004, a 49 percent increase over 2003. Another 141 incidents of confirmed or suspected bias crimes were committed against Muslims, a 52 percent rise.


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Father charged in girls’ slayings


ZION, Ill. - A man was arrested on murder charges Tuesday in the Mother's Day stabbings of his 8-year-old daughter and the little girl's best friend, who were killed after they went biking in a park...

Both girls had been beaten and stabbed repeatedly in the woods and left to die, Lake County Coroner Richard Keller said...

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said in announcing the charges Tuesday that he could not discuss possible motives for the killings, but he later told MSNBC's Dan Abrams that Hobbs had apparently been angered by a dispute with his daughter that had to do with money, and then headed to the park to find her.

"He was unhappy with (Laura) and wanted her to come home and the issue with the money certainly played a role in it," said Waller.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 

American torture, partly from the heartland...


I hesitate to post this, because it's clear that the use of torture is a policy decision made at the highest levels of the American government, by people now in the Attorney General's office, the Defense Department and the Pentagon. Moreover, those soldiers being court martialed are mostly dupes, fall-men and -women for those truly responsible for the horrors committed.

Still and all, if you need a fall-guy, you can't do much better than to dredge up some of these heartland types. Here's a NY Times story on some of these characters:

Behind Failed Abu Ghraib Plea, a Tangle of Bonds and Betrayals

In a military courtroom in Texas last week was a spectacle worthy of
"As the World Turns": Pfc. Lynndie R. England, the defendant, holding
her 7-month-old baby; the imprisoned father, Pvt. Charles A. Graner
Jr., giving testimony that ruined what lawyers said was her best shot
at leniency; and waiting outside, another defendant from the
notorious abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Megan M. Ambuhl, who
had recently wed Private Graner - a marriage Private England learned
about only days before.

To some, the grave misdeeds at Abu Ghraib, where the three soldiers
worked for six months in 2003, have become a twisted symbol of the
American military occupation of Iraq. But the scandal is also one
rooted in the behavior of military reservists working at the prison,
an environment that testimony has portrayed as more frat house than
military prison, a place where inmates were routinely left naked and
soldiers took pictures of one another simulating sex with fruit.

-snip-

Private England, who is now waiting for charges to be filed against
her again, and Private Graner began dating while they were training
with their Army Reserve unit, the 372nd Military Police Company,
based in Cresaptown, Md.

A hell-raising young woman from West Virginia, Private England, now
22, was married at 19, on a whim, she told friends, and violated her
parents' wishes when she joined the Reserve in high school to make
money for college.

Private Graner, 36, a Pennsylvania prison guard and a former marine,
had rejoined the military in a burst of patriotism after the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He was fresh from an ugly divorce in 2000. His ex-wife, Staci Morris,
had taken out three protective orders against him, and after he was
arrested for harassing her in 2001, Private Graner admitted that he
had dragged her around by her hair.


Thanks to Joe for the tip.

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More Molestation in the heartland


In Houston:

Ex-Catholic Schoolteacher Accused Of Molestation

A former Houston Catholic schoolteacher charged with sexually assaulting two brothers lied about his academic credentials.

Stuart Alan Murphy, 57, was arrested March 30 after confessing to authorities that he molested the boys.

Murphy worked as a teacher's assistant at the Cardinal Newman School and volunteered as a choir director at Annunciation Catholic Church.


In Louisiana:

Coach on trial in molestation case

Trial began in Shreveport today for a former Fair Park High School coach accused of molesting three male students.

(There are, alas, thousands of cases of molestation or alleged molestation around the country. I'd be doing nothing else if I posted them all, but I try to find the cases involving trusted people in positions of power in the heartland, the very people who Brooks and others celebrate as the pinacle of American morality.)

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Bizarre Sex Habits of The Extreme Right-Wing



The Green Knight passes along this post from News Hounds, who "watch FOX so you don't have to." I am truly speechless, and will re-post it without comment:

Last night, anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley was a guest on The Alan Colmes Show, a FOX News radio program. The topic was an interesting one - whether or not an internet service provider should allow Horsley to post the names of abortion doctors on his website. Horsley does that as a way of targeting them and one doctor has been killed. In the course of the interview, however, Colmes asked Horsley about his background, including a statement that he had admitted to engaging in homosexual and bestiality sex.

At first, Horsley laughed and said, "Just because it's printed in the media, people jump to believe it."

"Is it true?" Colmes asked.

"Hey, Alan, if you want to accuse me of having sex when I was a fool, I did everything that crossed my mind that looked like I..."

AC: "You had sex with animals?"

NH: "Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule."

AC: "I'm not so sure that that is so."

NH: "You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?"

AC: "Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?"

NH: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality... Welcome to domestic life on the farm..."

Colmes said he thought there were a lot of people in the audience who grew up on farms, are living on farms now, raising kids on farms and "and I don't think they are dating Elsie right now. You know what I'm saying?"

Horsley said, "You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually. You're naive. You know better than that... If it's warm and it's damp and it vibrates you might in fact have sex with it."

In addition to Horsley, Colmes has recently interviewed Randall Terry another radical anti-abortionist and anti-gay activist. In the middle of an otherwise serious interview, Terry began joking - apropos of nothing - that he and Colmes were ex-lovers.

Another extremist interviewed by Colmes not too long ago was Rev. Fred Phelps who stated on the show that he thought the death penalty should be given for those who engage in "sodomy." When Colmes asked Phelps if he had ever engaged in gay sex, Phelps blustered but never said no.

Hmm, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. Come to think of it, Ann Coulter is reputed to have an unusually, er, wide-ranging sex life, too, though as far as I know it's just confined to men. Still, it doesn't exactly match the profile of an ultra-conservative.

Reported by ellen at May 6, 2005 01:27 PM


Update: Chuck provides the actual audio link, here, adding: "Now, let's imagine if the guy interviewed was a Democrat or Clinton supporter. EVERY Limbaugh show for the next 5 years would open with a braying donkey."

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Monday, May 09, 2005

 

White Supremacists, Crowd Clash in Boston


Thanks to David for this, who notes:

"You know how southerners are pissed at those libruls from up north
always comin' into their hometowns uninvited, tellin' them how to live
their lives? How THAT'S always the problem, libruls not mindin' their own
biznis?

"So how do a bunch of klansman from Arkansas find their way to Boston to
protest a holocaust remembrance event?"

The story:

BOSTON - White supremacists clashed with an angry crowd outside Faneuil Hall, where Holocaust survivors and their families were commemorating the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

Two people were arrested during Sunday's confrontation, officer John Boyle said. Sunday was the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

Inside the historic meeting house, Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren lit white candles to commemorate the estimated 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis. Germany's consul-general to New England, Wolfgang Vorwerk, spoke of his country's role.

Outside, 10 to 15 members of the Arkansas-based group White Revolution were escorted by officers to a designated protest area across the street. The officers, many in riot gear, formed a barricade between the protesters and about 100 people who angrily shouted at them to leave Boston.

Two people were charged with disturbing the peace after a scuffle outside the protest area. Police said Shireen Chambers, 36, of Boston, who is white, struck a black man, Jerome Higins, 25, of Everett, and he retaliated by spitting in her face and hitting her with a sign. Boyle said at least one officer was injured while arresting Chambers, who yelled racist epithets as she was dragged away.


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Miss. couple arrested in embezzlement



McCOMB, Miss ...Howell allegedly borrowed a rolling-style cooler box from Pepsi Cola Co. of McComb to use at a Christian youth center's grand opening this past week and didn't return it, said Pike County Chief Deputy Steve Rushing. Heather Howell allegedly did the same with a $400 television from McLeod's Service Center of McComb, said McComb police detective Lenard Cowart.

Embezzlement becomes a felony when the merchandise is worth more than $500.

The couple made headlines when they converted an old nightclub near McComb into a Christian youth center. They held a grand opening April 30. The center has shut down.

Rushing said previous charges against Howell included indecent behavior with a juvenile in Covington, felony theft and felony sexual assault and several drug charges.


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How the Brits see the U.S. South


From BBC:

There are more churches per head of population in Mississippi than in any other state and, historically, you could argue, more racial prejudice, more unchristian behaviour.

(This story is actually somewhat sympathetic to Evangelists.)

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Man accused in death of child found in oven set for trial


First thing Monday morning, and we're already learning about another especially depraved Texan:

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) -- Two psychiatrists plan to testify that Kenneth Pierott was insane when he smothered his girlfriend's 6-year-old son and tried to cremate the body in an oven at the behest of voices in his head, according to court documents...

Pierott was charged with murder in April 2004 after 6-year-old Tre-Devin Odoms' body was found in the oven at his mother's Beaumont house. The gas was on, but the pilot light wasn't lit so the oven did not heat. An autopsy revealed the boy was smothered.

Pierott was found innocent by reason of insanity in the 1996 fatal beating of his sister, who suffered from cerebral palsy.

Stephanie Pierott, 25, weighed only 43 pounds. Pierott beat her with a dumbbell so severely that he displaced her eyeballs and crushed her skull...


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Sunday, May 08, 2005

 

Lackland GIs charged in murder for hire


San AntonioThe Air Force has charged a Lackland AFB captain and staff sergeant in a murder-for-hire plot to kill the captain's wife.

Captain Barry W. Brown, an attorney, and Staff Sgt. Ramona R. Greiner, a paralegal, were charged with conspiracy to commit premeditated murder this week, according to an Air Force news release.

Both Brown and Greiner were assigned to the Lackland 37th Training Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate.

Investigators allege Brown and Greiner solicited a civilian to murder Brown's wife, promising $25,000 to complete the job and providing photographs of the wife's vehicle and workplace.

Brown faces additional charges of attempted premeditated murder and violation of an Air Force policy that prohibits fraternizing.

Greiner also was charged with solicitation to commit murder and dereliction of duty, because she failed to maintain a professional relationship with the captain, the news release stated.


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Couple arrested on felony sexual molestation charges


TISHOMINGO, Oklahoma-- Felony sexual molestation charges have been filed against a local couple who allegedly engaged, suggested and exhibited sexually graphic materials with and in the presence of a 4-year-old child.

Jimmy Dwight Lair, 57, and Patty Lavern Lair, 42, were each named on three counts. Authorities allege incidents on which charges are based took place between Sept. 1, 2004, and Aug. 29, 2005, with the female child...

Court records charge the husband touched the child in a lewd and lascivious manner and made oral and indecent proposals to engage in unlawful sexual relations or have sexual relations with the girl. It is further alleged he showed the victim videotapes with obscene sexual content.

His wife allegedly knowingly and intentionally allowed the conduct to take place and contributed by making lewd and indecent proposals and displaying sexually graphic video materials in the child's presence.


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Police officer accused of murder, molestation


Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) -- Once a respected police officer in Charleston, Daniel William Hiers is now the focus of an international manhunt -- accused of child molestation and murder...

According to police, Hiers would take the girl to places such as a Wal-Mart parking lot, fondle her repeatedly and make her touch him...

They moved to arrest Hiers and charge him with lewd acts with a minor. It was then they discovered Hiers had a wife...

As he was about to face more serious charges of molestation, the case took a deadly turn.

After Hiers failed to turn himself in March 15 to face a second round of charges, his wife was found dead at their home. Hiers was missing, launching an international manhunt.


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Allegations shatter image of former church worker


From the Houston Chronicle:

Stuart Murphy projected himself as a humble man of independent wealth, a Catholic of standing and influence.

He told co-workers he was among the socially privileged invited to the bishop's Christmas party.

He gossiped about Catholic brass.

And although Murphy, a choir director at Annunciation Catholic Church in downtown Houston and a part-time teacher's assistant at the Cardinal Newman School on the west side, was prone to bouts of self-promotion, those who knew him reasoned, he was, after all, a Ph.D.

That persona was shattered when Murphy was arrested March 30, charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and four counts of indecency with a child. Shock was followed by questions — about his relationship with the church hierarchy, about his education, even about where he called home.


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Bishops battle Ohio abuse plan


From the Toledo Blade:

COLUMBUS - A pair of Catholic bishops held a rare private meeting with the speaker of the Ohio House this week to voice concerns over proposed legislation creating a brief opportunity for lawsuits to be filed in decades-old child sexual abuse cases...

The legislation would extend the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving all child sexual abuse cases to 20 years beyond the point at which the victim turns 18. The current limit is two years...

"It is devastating to me that the Catholic leader of my church would be the biggest advocate for promoting immunity for sex criminals and those who cover up sex crimes," said Claudia Vercellotti, coordinator of the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests chapter.


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Saturday, May 07, 2005

 

Man upset with penile surgery mails bomb


Wow, I missed this when I was off to Europe, but it's worth dredging up...

STEVENS, Pa. -- A man allegedly unhappy with penile-enlargement surgery he underwent mailed explosives to a Chicago plastic surgeon, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

Blake R. Steidler, 24, allegedly made an explosive device that included a model-rocket engine igniter inside a jewelry box, the federal indictment said.


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School defends right to refuse teen


Christian charity:

A Christian school official in Warren County defended the private institution yesterday after the school refused to enroll a 13-year-old boy who allegedly was raped by his teacher.

''Being a private school, we reserve the right to deny admission to anybody, and we do quite often,'' said C.N. Womack, president of the Boyd Christian School in McMinnville, Tenn.

The child's mother has criticized school officials for refusing to enroll her son. The mother told WKRN-Channel 2 that her son had been victimized all over again after the school refused on Monday to accept him.

The Tennessean does not normally publish the names of alleged rape victims or their family members. The mother told the news station that her son has had a difficult time in school since his teacher was arrested.

The boy's former teacher at Centertown Elementary, Pamela Rogers Turner, 27, has been charged with 28 sexual misconduct charges. The alleged sexual contact between the teen and the teacher occurred between last November and January.


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Doc says little boy starved for a month


In Texas:

Jovonie Ochoa likely was starved for a month or longer before he died Christmas Day 2003, a medical examiner testified Friday.

If the 4-year-old boy was given small amounts of food over a period of time, the starvation may have been going on longer than a month, medical examiner Randy Frost said during the second day of testimony in Maria Palacios' trial.

Palacios, Jovonie's grandmother, is the first of five relatives to stand trial in the child's death.

She's charged with injury to a child by omission, endangering the life of a child and unlawful restraint of a child. If convicted, she faces five to 99 years or life in prison.

Jovonie was living with Palacios and about six other relatives when he died.

Frost told jurors Jovonie died of starvation and neglect and had no other medical conditions that prevented him from eating or digesting food.

Jovonie weighed 16 pounds, less than half of what a boy his age should weigh, when he died.


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Friday, May 06, 2005

 

Student suspended over call from mom in Iraq


I'm not sure how to classify this, but as Cy Guy notes, "How much do you want to bet that the teacher and principal both have 'Support Our Troops' ribbons on their cars?"

COLUMBUS, Georgia (AP) -- A high school student was suspended for 10 days for refusing to end a cell phone call with his mother, a soldier serving in Iraq, school officials said.

The 10-day suspension was issued because Kevin Francois was "defiant and disorderly" and was imposed in lieu of an arrest, Spencer High School assistant principal Alfred Parham said.

The confrontation Wednesday began after the 17-year-old junior got a call at lunchtime from his mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, who left in January for a one-year tour with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion.

Cell phones are allowed on campus but may not be used during school hours. When a teacher told him to hang up, he refused. He said he told the teacher, "This is my mom in Iraq. I'm not about to hang up on my mom."


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