Review Category : National News

Warren Jeffs’ Mansion Becomes Bed and Breakfast

Steve Marcus-Pool/Getty Images(HILDALE, Utah) — While polygamist leader Warren Jeffs spends his days in a prison cell, his sprawling compound has been turned into a bed and breakfast.

Jeffs’ former bodyguard, Willie Jessop, bought the Hildale, Utah mansion last year with money he received as part of a settlement against Jeffs and members of his sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.

Jessop claimed in the lawsuit the FLDS leaders ruined his excavating business after he was excommunicated from the group.

Jeffs, the former leader of the FDLS, married more than 80 women and was convicted on two counts of sexual assault against two girls, ages 12 and 15. He was sentenced to life in prison in Texas.

Jessop has turned the compound into “America’s Most Wanted Suites and Bed & Breakfast.” The hotel takes its cheeky name from his former boss’ stint on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

The $3.6 property has been transformed from Jeffs’ vision, however. It includes newly constructed apartments, full size kitchens and satellite television, according to the hotel’s website. The cost to book a room was not available online and a booking agent did not immediately return a call from ABC News.

The location is perfect for outdoorsy guests who are looking for an adventure. It’s close to the Grand Canyon, near the recreational opportunities of Lake Powell and Zion’s National Park, along with other sightseeing destinations.

The business has not yet been registered with Utah’s Chamber of Commerce.

The FLDS group broke away from the mainstream Mormon church during the late 19th century after LDS officials ended plural marriages. Jeffs took over as leader of the group when his father, Rulon Jeffs, died in 2002.

A raid in 2008 on the group’s Yearning for Zion compound in Eldorado, Texas, brought the FLDS community into the national spotlight. Authorities found a polygamous community and pregnant child brides.

Pictures of women in pastel prairie clothes with tightly braided hairstyles and stories of the controlling, male-dominated environment offered the world a glimpse into the lives of the reclusive group.

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Florida Family Strikes Gold on Sunken Treasure Hunt — Again

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A Florida man literally struck gold when he unearthed a “priceless” religious artifact from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The sunken treasure was discovered at the site of a shipwreck that happened nearly 300 years ago off the coast of Ft. Pierce. It’s the missing piece of a necklace that was discovered at the same wreck in 1989.

Called a pyx, the ornate gold trinket is a Spanish artifact used by priests to hold the communion host, Brent Brisben, the operations manager of Queens Jewels, told ABC News.

“We find shipwrecked artifacts on a daily basis, but it’s more like ship spikes and musket balls, so when you get an extremely rare, unique piece like this, it’s exciting,” Brisben said.

He said 27-year-old Eric Schmitt, a professional salvager in Florida, found the piece last month on a scavenging hunt with his family. Last year, he had dug up more than $300,000 worth of gold chains and coins from the same wreckage.

“He found an incredible silver platter when he was 14 years old,” Brisben added.

Hunting for buried treasure is the Schmitt’s family business. They own Booty Salvage and work for Brisben’s company, which owns rights to the wreckage. Brisben also goes on treasure-hunting excursions.

“It’s incredibly difficult work,” Brisben said. “It’s long, it’s in the middle of the summer, it’s hot. You’re in the sun all day. It’s quite laborious work, so when you come across an amazing artifact like that, words can’t describe it. It’s a surreal experience to touch something from 300 years ago, to learn about it, and to share it with the world.”

Spanish historians recently discovered what it was and linked it to the artifact dug up 25 years ago. The piece has not been appraised yet, but Brisben called it “priceless.”

By law, it is in the custody of the U.S. District Court in South Florida. The state can take possession of up to 20 percent of Brisben’s goods. Proceeds from the rest are split between his company and the Schmitt family.

The shipwreck where it was found is one of the most important in history. Several galleons packed with treasures from the New World left Havana, bound for Spain, and were taken down by a hurricane in 1715.

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Prosecution Rests Its Case in ‘Porch Shooting’ Trial

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — The prosecution rested its case Wednesday in the murder trial of a suburban Detroit man accused of fatally shooting an unarmed teenager.

Theodore Wafer, 55, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Renisha McBride, 19, after she showed up on his porch in Dearborn Heights during the early morning of Nov. 2, 2013.

Wafer sat quietly at the defense table Wednesday, the fifth day of his trial, as he listened to testimony from Dr. Kilak Kesha, an assistant medical examiner from Wayne County.

Kesha described McBride’s brain as “pulpified” and how the bullet wound the teen suffered proved catastrophic. He also told the jury that he wasn’t able to discern any other injuries.

A photo of pellets removed from McBride’s brain during the autopsy was also shown. Alcohol and marijuana were also found in McBride’s system, Kesha testified.

Where McBride was before she was fatally shot on Wafer’s porch — and the screen door through which the fatal bullet was apparently fired — will be decisive during the trial.

Whether Wafer’s screen door was torn from a break-in attempt or if it was damaged from the bullets he allegedly fired at McBride will be a key question in the case, which is reminiscent of the George Zimmerman trial in Florida.

On Tuesday, Detective Sgt. Shawn Kolonich of the Michigan State Police testified that there was no feasible way Wafer could have accidentally fired his shotgun at McBride.

Under a 2006 Michigan self-defense law, a homeowner has the right to use force during a break-in. Otherwise, a person must prove his or her life was in danger.

McBride was shot in the face, falling on her back, with her feet facing Wafer’s door, prosecutors said.

Wafer told police he didn’t know his gun was loaded and said he shot the unarmed teen by accident, according to a recording played to jurors last week.

“What happened here?” Sgt. Rory McManmon asked, according to the recording.

“A consistent knocking on the door, and I’m trying to look through the windows, but every time I look through the windows and the door it’s banging somewhere else,” Wafer said on the recording. “So I open up the door, kind of like who is this? And the gun discharged.”

“I didn’t know there was a round in there,” he tells McManmon on the recording. “I don’t get it. Who’s knocking on your door at 4:30 in the morning? Bang, bang, bang — somebody wanting in.”

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Ax Flies into Windshield, Startles Motorists

Massachusetts State Police/Facebook(TOPSFIELD, Mass.) — Motorists driving down a Massachusetts highway on Wednesday were rattled when an ax came flying through the windshield.

The ax, which had not been properly secured by the dump truck in front of the vehicle, went halfway through the window, according the Massachusetts State Police. The ax blade rested on the dashboard on the passenger side of the car while much of the handle stuck out of the windshield.

The frightening incident occurred shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday as the car traveled on Route 95 in Topsfield, Massachusetts. The passenger in the car, who was not identified, “was shaken up,” but not injured, a police statement said.

Trooper Joseph Risteen of the Newbury Barracks responded to the accident and the truck driver, who was identified only as being from Peabody, Massachusetts, was fined $200 for failure to secure cargo.

Officers with the Massachusetts State Police hope that the incident serves as a tale of caution to drivers to properly secure items they are carrying, like tools, bicycles, canoes and furniture.

It was also a reminder, police said, to follow the speed limit. The driver in the incident had been going a legal 65 mph, and officers noted that if the car had been traveling above the limit, it would have increased the ax’s impact and been a possibly fatal situation.

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Satanists Use Hobby Lobby Decision to Play Devil’s Advocate

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A group of Satanists are using the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision to promote their own political initiatives — which are the polar opposite of the Christian craft store giant.

The Supreme Court ruling allows Hobby Lobby to opt out of providing contraceptives to their employees on the basis of their religious beliefs. Now, The Satanic Temple plans to cite the verdict as justification for the protection of their own beliefs.

The Satanic Temple, a religious group based in New York but with followers across the country, is using the ruling to fight informed consent laws which mandate that women considering abortions must be given state-approved literature about the procedure.

Where they exist, informed consent laws differ by state, with some requiring women to watch videos or read information of varying amounts of time before scheduling their procedures.

“We should only have to review medical or scientific information based solely on fact and not politicized,” said Jex Blackmore, the head of the Detroit chapter of The Satanic Temple. “Some of that state-drafted information is medical in nature [but] it’s just that it’s written in a very biased format.”

The group announced the initiative last week and have provided a form letter intended to enable women to opt-out of receiving the pamphlets distributed under the informed consent laws. They contend that the informed consent pamphlets run counter to their religious beliefs.

Women are able to print out the opt-out form, fill it out and hand it to their doctor. If the doctor still gives them the state-mandated forms in spite of the letter, The Satanic Temple says it will file a lawsuit on their behalf.

Blackmore said they have not filed any such suits since the initiative was launched.

“It’s an opening statement, as it were,” W. James MacNaughton, The Satanic Temple’s attorney, told ABC. “It’s a statement from the patient to the physician and to the world at large that ‘here’s my position, here’s what i believe’. actually going to court and picking the test case actually depends on the facts. At this stage, we don’t know who that will be.”

The Satanic Temple remains a mystery to many but their spokesman Lucien Greaves told ABC News that they have gained 10,000 members in the past year and a half. They gained notoriety earlier this year when they successfully pushed for a 7-foot Satanic statue to be approved to stand alongside a 10 Commandments monument at the Oklahoma State Capital.

Cardozo School of Law professor Marci Hamilton, who has written extensively about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), said that The Satanic Temple’s plan to use the Hobby Lobby ruling as the basis for their initiative could be effective if and when they bring a lawsuit to the courts.

“This was inevitable,” Hamilton told ABC News. “This is following exactly on that line of thinking that a regulation that impedes the ability of the believer to practice that religion is going to be challenged.”

She said that an important distinction to keep in mind is that both the Hobby Lobby decision and The Satanic Temple’s initiative both rely on RFRA, which helps individuals fight laws that counter their religious beliefs, as opposed to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

RFRA was passed in 1993 and adds more protections than the Constitution lays out for religious freedom.

A number of legal experts, including Hamilton, believe RFRA is unconstitutional. In her view, Hamilton believes RFRA caused “this wave of extreme religious liberty that is untethered from the constitution.”

“For those of us who have been working on RFRA issues for two decades…inevitably it was going to be groups that raised claims that made either ordinary Americans or the far right find uncomfortable,” Hamilton said.

When it comes to fighting any lawsuits that The Satanic Temple brings forward regarding informed consent laws, it appears that the devil is truly in the details.

“It really puts the conservative Christians and the anti-contraceptive Catholics in a bind: They’re going to have to argue that a religious group should lose a RFRA claim that is on par with the Hobby Lobby claim,” Hamilton said.

“The courts cant pick and choose between beliefs,” she added.

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Satanists Use Hobby Lobby Decision to Play Devil’s Advocate

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A group of Satanists are using the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision to promote their own political initiatives — which are the polar opposite of the Christian craft store giant.

The Supreme Court ruling allows Hobby Lobby to opt out of providing contraceptives to their employees on the basis of their religious beliefs. Now, The Satanic Temple plans to cite the verdict as justification for the protection of their own beliefs.

The Satanic Temple, a religious group based in New York but with followers across the country, is using the ruling to fight informed consent laws which mandate that women considering abortions must be given state-approved literature about the procedure.

Where they exist, informed consent laws differ by state, with some requiring women to watch videos or read information of varying amounts of time before scheduling their procedures.

“We should only have to review medical or scientific information based solely on fact and not politicized,” said Jex Blackmore, the head of the Detroit chapter of The Satanic Temple. “Some of that state-drafted information is medical in nature [but] it’s just that it’s written in a very biased format.”

The group announced the initiative last week and have provided a form letter intended to enable women to opt-out of receiving the pamphlets distributed under the informed consent laws. They contend that the informed consent pamphlets run counter to their religious beliefs.

Women are able to print out the opt-out form, fill it out and hand it to their doctor. If the doctor still gives them the state-mandated forms in spite of the letter, The Satanic Temple says it will file a lawsuit on their behalf.

Blackmore said they have not filed any such suits since the initiative was launched.

“It’s an opening statement, as it were,” W. James MacNaughton, The Satanic Temple’s attorney, told ABC. “It’s a statement from the patient to the physician and to the world at large that ‘here’s my position, here’s what i believe’. actually going to court and picking the test case actually depends on the facts. At this stage, we don’t know who that will be.”

The Satanic Temple remains a mystery to many but their spokesman Lucien Greaves told ABC News that they have gained 10,000 members in the past year and a half. They gained notoriety earlier this year when they successfully pushed for a 7-foot Satanic statue to be approved to stand alongside a 10 Commandments monument at the Oklahoma State Capital.

Cardozo School of Law professor Marci Hamilton, who has written extensively about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), said that The Satanic Temple’s plan to use the Hobby Lobby ruling as the basis for their initiative could be effective if and when they bring a lawsuit to the courts.

“This was inevitable,” Hamilton told ABC News. “This is following exactly on that line of thinking that a regulation that impedes the ability of the believer to practice that religion is going to be challenged.”

She said that an important distinction to keep in mind is that both the Hobby Lobby decision and The Satanic Temple’s initiative both rely on RFRA, which helps individuals fight laws that counter their religious beliefs, as opposed to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

RFRA was passed in 1993 and adds more protections than the Constitution lays out for religious freedom.

A number of legal experts, including Hamilton, believe RFRA is unconstitutional. In her view, Hamilton believes RFRA caused “this wave of extreme religious liberty that is untethered from the constitution.”

“For those of us who have been working on RFRA issues for two decades…inevitably it was going to be groups that raised claims that made either ordinary Americans or the far right find uncomfortable,” Hamilton said.

When it comes to fighting any lawsuits that The Satanic Temple brings forward regarding informed consent laws, it appears that the devil is truly in the details.

“It really puts the conservative Christians and the anti-contraceptive Catholics in a bind: They’re going to have to argue that a religious group should lose a RFRA claim that is on par with the Hobby Lobby claim,” Hamilton said.

“The courts cant pick and choose between beliefs,” she added.

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Investigator to Interview Bowe Bergdahl on 2009 Disappearance Next Week

File photo. Credit: US Army(SAN ANTONIO) — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s attorney tells ABC News that he expects his client will be interviewed next week by Maj. General Kenneth Dahl, the two star general investigating his 2009 disappearance.

Military attorney Eugene Fidell says it’s his “assumption” that Bergdahl will be interviewed by Dahl next week in San Antonio, where the former Taliban captive is currently assigned at the U.S. Army North headquarters.

Fidell will be on hand for the meeting when it takes place, though he did not provide a specific date for the interview. It’s also unclear whether the Dahl’s questioning will last more than one day.

Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, adds that Bergdahl has already participated in a “very introductory” meeting with Maj. Gen. Dahl and that “nothing substantive” was discussed. An Army official says that meeting took place in San Antonio the week of July 14.

Dahl’s full investigation is supposed to last 60 days, which means he’s slated to present a report by Aug.15. He could, however, request an extension for his investigation. Fidell referred questions to the Army when asked if an extension was likely.

As for what happens after the interview next week Fidell says the “ball will be in the Army’s court as Maj. Gen. Dahl prepares his report and it’s reviewed by the commands he’ll present it to.”

Dahl’s report is meant to uncover the facts surrounding the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance from an Afghan outpost and his capture by the Taliban in 2009 that will be presented to the director of the Army staff. If the report reveals findings that could require disciplinary action, it will be up to Bergdahl’s current command to follow through with those actions.

Fidell hopes the matter “will be resolved sooner rather than later so Sgt. Bergdahl can go back to his life.”

The attorney would not answer whether Bergdahl has spoken or met with his parents.

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Jesse Ventura Wins Lawsuit Against Estate of Slain Navy SEAL

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was awarded $1.845 million in damages after a jury determined that he was defamed in a book by the late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

Kyle, who was murdered in 2013, wrote in his book, American Sniper, that he once punched out a man identified as “Mr. Scruff Face” because he badmouthed the SEALs and said the elite group “deserved to lose a few” members.

During a tour to promote American Sniper in 2012, Kyle said the person he “laid out” in a bar was Ventura.

Ventura sued, claiming the incident never happened. The former governor belonged to the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team during the Vietnam War era, which eventually merged with the SEALs.

His award included $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for “unjust enrichment,” meaning someone, in this case Kyle, made money at the expense of Ventura.

Kyle and a friend, Chad Littlefield, 35, were shot to death Feb. 2, 2013 at the Rough Creek Lodge in Texas. Police have charged former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, who had a history of mental problems, with two counts of capital murder. Routh has pleaded not guilty.

Kyle’s book is being adapted into a movie starring Oscar winner Bradley Cooper.

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Woman Pledges to Go Vegan So PETA Will Pay Her Water Bill

David Silverman/Getty Images(DETROIT) — As thousands of Detroit residents struggle without water, one woman is reaching out to an unlikely source to help pay for her overdue bill: PETA.

The catch? Leslie Turner will have to go vegan for thirty days as part of a deal she struck with the animal rights group.

“I heard about it on the radio,” said Turner, a 46-year-old social worker who lives in Detroit’s Conant Gardens neighborhood. “This would be a tremendous help — it will be one less expense that I have to worry about.”

Last week, Turner mailed her overdue bill — amounting to $147.12 — and a pledge to go vegan to PETA, which recently announced it would pay the bills of 10 Detroit citizens who agreed to stop eating animal products. The group’s offbeat campaign takes advantage of the recent water crisis in Detroit, where residents owe more than $89 million on past-due accounts, and more than 7,000 people have had their water shut off in recent weeks, prompting chaos in the bankrupt city.

“It was unwarranted, and it was a surprise to a lot of people,” Turner said of the shutoffs. “People have been trying to contact the water company to make payment plans and also had been going to the water company, but the lines would be horrendous or they weren’t even able to get in.”

Turner said her water hasn’t been shut off yet — she’s on a payment plan — but is worried it would be soon. She has a job, but says she still struggles to pay her bills.

Despite some criticism, PETA calls its latest campaign a “win-win situation.”

“We had a generous PETA member who saw this as an opportunity to help people in need, while also helping animals,” said PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt. “Not only will people get their water bills paid, they’ll be introduced to a healthy, plant-based diet that will reduce their costs in the long run.”

Critics might argue that a vegan diet — popularized by celebrities and health nuts — is anything but cheap, which would pose a problem for the financially-stricken residents of Detroit, where the unemployment rate is 14.5 percent. But Rajt said eating vegan is simpler than most people think.

“A lot of people hear about all of these celebrities who are going vegan, so it makes it seem like it’s very elite or expensive, but the fact is that a lot of the foods that most of us eat every day are already vegan and they’re very low-cost,” she said. “What is more budget-friendly than a healthy dinner of rice and beans, for example? Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or pasta with marinara sauce?”

For Turner, she’s happy to eat vegan if it means her bill will be paid. And it will: PETA says her check is in the mail. Besides, Turner adds, the new diet will probably be good for her.

“If I eliminate dairy and animal products I may be able to come off my blood pressure medicine,” she explained.

She has no doubt she’ll be able to stick to a vegan diet — and the “welcome” basket of vegan goodies that PETA is sending her will help. But the diet restrictions turned off some of her family and friends who heard about PETA’s offer.

“Not very many of them think they will be able to consume just vegetables and fruits and grains, and not have meat products, so that’s the major drawback I’ve heard,” Turner said.

Detroit residents interested in PETA’s campaign must mail in their overdue bills and a pledge to go vegan before this Friday. So far, Rajt says they’ve received five applications.

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LA Water Main Break Floods Parts of UCLA Campus

ABC7 Los Angeles(LOS ANGELES) — A hundred year old water main ruptured in Los Angeles on Tuesday, flooding parts of the UCLA campus.

As the flooding stretches from buildings to underground parking garages to the Drake Track and Field Stadium, the LA Fire Department is bringing in crews to help rescue people fromswamped cars.

Pauley Pavilion, which underwent a $133 million renovation in 2012, is also flooded.

No injuries have been reported, according to ABC station KABC.

City councilman Paul Koretz says such an emergency could not have come at a worse time, as Los Angeles and much of California is suffering from one of the worst droughts in more than a decade.

“We’re losing water at I understand around 35,000 gallons a minute,” Koretz said. Obviously we will have to work harder to conserve with the drought because we’ve lost a lot of water.”

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