Review Category : National News

‘Slender Man’ Suspects Back in Court; Victim’s Family Updates Her Recovery

iStock/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wis.) — The two Wisconsin 12-year-olds who are charged with allegedly stabbing their friend 19 times after claiming that they did it because of a fictitious character called “Slender Man” are due back in court Wednesday to hear the results of their mental evaluations.

Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser have been charged with first-degree attempted murder and face up to 65 years behind bars if convicted of carrying out the May 31 attack in Waukesha.

The 12-year-old victim, who has not been identified because of her age, was said to be close to death but has since been released from the hospital and her parents have released new details about her recovery.

“She continues to amaze us in her ability to persevere and move forward — taking one day at a time,” they said in a statement their family spokesman Stephen Lyons shared with ABC News Wednesday. “Much of our strength comes from knowing that there is so much ‘good’ coming from so many people, and we continue to witness this firsthand from the compassion given to our little girl from around the world.”

The two suspects have been charged as adults in keeping with Wisconsin’s laws that mandate that only those under the age of 10 are given the status of juveniles in murder cases.

Anthony Cotton, the attorney representing Morgan Geyser, told ABC News that he has not yet submitted a reverse waiver petition, which would push to have their status changed.

“State law requires attempted homicide to begin in adult court, but the law permits the judge to order this case into juvenile court if we meet a series of showings,” he said.

“The preliminary hearing won’t take place for at least 30 days, and probably even later than that.”

Cotton said that the results of the competency evaluations have been finalized but he could not speak to their conclusions until after Wednesday’s hearing because the reports are sealed.

This is not the first time that the victim’s family has spoken out following the attack just over a month ago.

They released photos of their daughter — with her face cropped out of the picture — that showed her holding up some of the thousands of ‘get well’ notes she received while recovering in a Waukesha hospital.

The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help solicit money from supporters to cover the medical expenses to treat the 19 stabbing wounds their daughter sustained in the attack, which was reportedly carried out by the alleged suspects in an effort to win the favor of a Slenderman.

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Soccer Referee Dies After Punch on Field

iStock/Thinkstock(LIVONIA, Mich.) — A Michigan man who was allegedly sucker-punched while refereeing an adult soccer match last weekend died Tuesday from head injuries.

John Bieniewicz, 44, was looking down when police say Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, who had been ejected from the game, punched him.

After leaving the field in Livonia, Saad later turned himself in and was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm.

However, the charges are likely to be amended since the referee succumbed to his injuries.

According to those who knew him, Bieniewicz was an experienced referee. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

Meanwhile, Saad’s attorney said the facts in the case have been “mischaracterized.”

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California Protesters Block Bus Containing Undocumented Immigrants

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — Protesters blocked a bus full of undocumented immigrant families from arriving at the border patrol station in Murrieta, Calif., on Tuesday.

The immigrants were being taken to Murrieta because processing centers along the border are full. About 140 immigrants were on the bus on Tuesday when locals blocked the bus’ path, saying they feel as though their city is being used as a dumping ground.

The immigrants were to be processed at Murrieta, but the buses were turned around after they could not get into the Murrieta center, and went instead to a border patrol center south of San Diego.

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Body of Iowa Teen Swept Away in Flood Found

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa) — The body of a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, teenager was found Tuesday, authorities said, after he and a friend were swept away by rushing currents caused by a storm that flooded neighborhoods across the Midwest.

Logan Blake, 17, had been playing Frisbee Monday with friends when he was sucked away into a drain pipe. Blake’s friend David Bliss had tried to rescue him from a storm drain but because of the size of the pipe and amount of water, both were sucked right into the tunnels of raging water.

Bliss, 17, was carried for a mile and a half, but ended up in Cedar Lake with only minor injuries.

On Tuesday, firefighters pulled back manhole covers and went underground in search of Blake. His body was found more than a mile away in the lake.

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‘Hot Mug Shot’ Felon Signs with Agent for Modeling Contracts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(STOCKTON, Calif.) — The felon whose mug shot earned him scores of admirers has secured a Hollywood agent who is negotiating modeling contracts even though he is still in jail.

Jeremy Meeks was arrested as part of a sweep of gangs in Stockton, California, and faces a felony weapons charge.

His mug shot went viral after being posted by the police department’s Facebook page, and has now it has caught the attention of an agent.

Gina Rodriguez has signed Meeks, 30, as a client and he joins a roster of her other notorious celebrities.

Teen Mom star Farrah Abraham, Donald Sterling’s alleged former mistress V. Stiviano and ‘Octomom’ Nadya Suleman are among Rodriguez’s other clients.

“Jeremy has an amazing look and has received international attention which I feel can only help him flourish in the entertainment industry,” Rodriguez told ABC News.

Though they have not formally set up any contracts with modeling agencies or other prospective employers, Rodriguez has high hopes.

“Jeremy could make somewhere between $3,000 to $100,000 per month through endorsements and modeling. We are also speaking with several production companies about following Jeremy’s foray into the entertainment industry,” she said.

While Rodriguez said she is in talks with Jim Jordan, who owns modeling agency White Cross Management, company spokeswoman Mikaela Morton told ABC that, “It all depends on everything, but as of now we’re not representing him.”

Meeks is being held on 11 felony counts that include street gang membership and the possession of firearms, but Rodriguez does not believe that his criminal past will hinder his career prospects.

“I believe this can be a positive change for Jeremy and his family,” she said.

One clear step that is preventing any immediate action is the fact that Meeks remains behind bars on $1.1 million bail.

A woman claiming to be Meeks’ mother has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to pay for his release.

In the description, she insisted that he has no gang affiliations in spite of the charges filed against him.

“He has old tattoos…which causes him to be stereotyped. He’s my son and I’m just trying to raise funds to help him in any way. Please help him to get a fair trial or else he’ll be railroaded,” his mother Katherine Angier wrote.

The crowdsourcing effort has quite a way to go: so far, they have raised just over $5,000.

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NTSB Offers Recommendations for Regulation of Parasailing

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report on Tuesday calling for the U.S. Coast Guard to require certification for parasailing operation.

According to the NTSB, three to five million people take part in parasailing or paragliding each year, and there are currently no federal regulations governing training or certification of the operators. In 2013, the NTSB notes, 325 operators offered rides in the U.S. — with one-third of those in Florida unable to successfully pass regulation.

The report notes that since 2009, when the agency began monitoring such accidents, eight deaths in parasailing accidents were recorded. The most common cause of the fatal accidents was equipment failure.

The NTSB concluded that the Coast Guard should implement specialized licensing for all operators and incorporate standards from the American Society for Testing and Materials for parasailing. Additional recommendations included regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration and a draft of potential legislation to be created by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

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Jury’s ‘Cannibal Cop’ Verdict Overturned by Judge

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The so-called cannibal cop is free.

Former New York City Police Officer Gilberto Valle, 40, was released from federal custody less than 24 hours after a judge overturned his jury conviction in a case called a reflection of “the Internet age in which we live.”

The alleged conspiracy to kidnap, torture, rape, murder and cannibalize women that Valle was found guilty of “existed solely in cyberspace,” Judge Paul Gardephe ruled. He conceded the detail may have been graphic and “deeply disturbing” – at one point Valle mentioned “human-size ovens and rotisseries” and pulley apparatuses for torture. But despite Valle’s “deviant and depraved sexual interests,” Gardephe said “no real-world, non-Internet-based steps were even taken.”

“The judge’s well-reasoned decision validates what we have said since the beginning: There was no crime,” defense attorney Julia Gatto said. “Gil Valle is innocent of any conspiracy. Gil is guilty of nothing more than having unconventional thoughts.”

“The government believes the jury got it right,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman. Valle walked out of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on $100,000 bond. He had been jailed since 2012 and planned to return to a home in Queens, where he will be subject to home detention monitoring by GPS device.

He can have no computer or Internet use and no contact with any of the women who testified against him. Once outside, he told reporters, “I want to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone I hurt, shocked and offended with my infantile behavior.”

At his often macabre trial prosecutors revealed Valle’s Internet conversation on Dark Fetish Network. Many of them involved photographs of women he knew, including his wife, work colleagues and college friends and “chats” with users about committing acts of sexual violence against those women.

The judge sided with Valle, who argued his chats were nothing but fantasy role-play.

“Once the lies and fantastical elements are stripped away, what is left are deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror and degradation,” the judge wrote. “Despite the highly disturbing nature of Valle’s deviant and depraved sexual interests, his chats and emails about these interests are not sufficient – standing alone – to make out the elements of a conspiracy to commit kidnapping.”

A separate count of improperly accessing a law enforcement database was upheld.

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FBI: Art Fraudster Faked Pollocks, Threatened Buyers

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A New York man has been arrested after allegedly selling nearly $2 million-worth of fake fine art to collectors and then threatening the buyers in colorful emails to keep them from having the paintings’ authenticity tested or to pressure them into lending him money.

John Re, from East Hampton, was arrested in mid-June and accused in a criminal complaint of selling dozens of fake works of art supposedly by the famous abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock to a handful of collectors, The New York Post reported Tuesday.

The FBI agent who filed the complaint alleged that Re concocted a story about a trove of Pollock paintings that had been discovered in the basement of an East Hampton home. He then sold the paintings online, describing them as “real” or “authentic,” the complaint says.

One of the collectors, identified only as Collector-2, had 45 of the paintings tested and found that following a “‘thorough investigation, which included in person examinations of all 45 paintings by specialists and conservators, extensive provenance and art historical research, and physical examination, and selective forensic testing of the materials,’…none of the 45 purported Pollock paintings were by Jackson Pollock,” the FBI agent said. The complaint says those sold to the other collectors were also “fakes.”

There was purportedly no evidence to support Re’s found-in-a-basement story and the works were “not stylistically consistent with examples of authentic Pollock paintings.”

In one case, the artwork’s paint was “too fresh to have been applied by Jackson Pollock, who died on August 11, 1956,” the complaint says.

The FBI alleges Re also sent a series of intimidating emails to some of the buyers.

“What the hell were you thinking, or were you letting someone else do your thinking for you[?]” Re allegedly wrote in an email to one buyer after learning the collector had submitted several paintings to experts at IFAR, the International Foundation for Art Research.

The FBI says Re attempted to pressure another buyer into lending him money and then exploded when the buyer refused. Later, the FBI says Re attempted to intimidate the buyer and demanded that he return two of the purported Pollocks.

“[I] would never threatened anybody unless I’m gonna follow through. I grew up in Brooklyn, ok?” Re allegedly told the buyer in a recorded phone call. “When I tell you to do something, you don’t…be quiet. You don’t question me. You don’t talk over me. You don’t disrespect me. You just do it…And if you got to call me back and ask one more time, your mother’s going to start wondering why you stopped visiting her.”

The complaint says the FBI interviewed Re in May and Re initially claimed he only said the artwork was “attributed” to Pollock, meaning there was always doubt about its provenance. But the FBI agent alleged that Re was then shown the online listings for the paintings, which identified them as “real” or “authentic” Pollocks, and Re admitted he had represented them as “authentic.”

“Re said he would ‘take the weight’ for anything he has done wrong but that he did not think he had done anything wrong,” the complaint said.

Re has not filed a plea in the case and his attorney, Annalisa Miron, declined to comment for this report.

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Michelle Howard Becomes Navy’s First Female Four-Star Admiral

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released(ARLINGTON, Va.) — For the first time ever, the U.S. Navy has a female four-star admiral.

Adm. Michelle Howard was promoted to that rank on Tuesday, becoming the Navy’s vice chief of operations — it’s second-highest-ranking officer — in a ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, with the Navy’s top leadership in attendance.

“If you don’t believe today was a first, when I called to order four-star shoulder boards for women, they didn’t exist,” Howard told the audience, after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Howard’s husband pinned the new shoulder boards on Howard in a small auditorium, concluding the brief ceremony that made her promotion official. “[A] special contract was let, and you folks are seeing the first set in the history of the United States Navy.”

The highest-ranking African-American woman ever in any branch of the military, Howard commanded the Navy task force involved in the Maersk Alabama rescue, which became the plot of the film Captain Phillips. An actress’ depiction of Howard’s voice can be heard in that film.

Mabus praised Howard in introductory remarks, acknowledging the significance of her promotion but also downplaying its news value; the Navy simply picked the best officer for the job, Mabus said.

“She is a representation of how far we have come and how far she has helped bring us, she and so many, so many others have helped us to this day,” Mabus said. “I believe that today is an example of a Navy that now reflects the highest ideals of the nation that we serve — a nation where success is not born by ethnicity or gender, but by skill and ability.”

After the ceremony, Howard spoke to a group of reporters, reflecting on her achievement, the Navy’s embrace of women over the last 20 years, and what her rank means for other women in the Navy.

“The Navy has come tremendously far, and I don’t know that there’s much more we need to go,” Howard said. “Once we opened up surface warfare ships, once women could become fighter pilots — and we have a woman who’s a carrier air group commander now — once they could serve on submarines. It’s a great Navy and great opportunity for women, and so my rank today lets them know that they can go from … ensign to admiral — it’s open.”

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Arthur Is First Named Atlantic Storm of 2014

NASA Goddard MODIS(HOUSTON) — NASA released a breathtaking satellite image on Tuesday of Tropical Storm Arthur, the first named Atlantic storm of the 2014 hurricane season.

The photo was captured by the space agency’s Aqua satellite on Monday afternoon, just before the tropical depression off the coast of southern Florida was upgraded to a tropical storm and named Arthur on Tuesday.

Click here to see the high-resolution image.

Arthur is expected to gain strength and is forecast to hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina around 2 a.m. Friday as a hurricane with winds near 75 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the east coast of Florida from Fort Pierce to Flagler Beach.

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