Review Category : National News

NFL Commissioner Comes Under Increased Criticism for Handling of Domestic Abuse Situation

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In the wake of the newest information about the Ray Rice domestic violence situation, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has come under increased criticism, with the National Organization for Women and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, questioning Goodell’s ability to handle the situation.

A statement released on Wednesday by NOW President Terry O’Neill declared that “the NFL has lost its way,” and that its problem is not isolated to the incident in which Ray Rice struck his wife in an elevator at Revel Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., but that the league “has a violence against women problem.” O’Neill’s statement notes even more recent examples of NFL players being accused of domestic violence, including San Francisco 49ers player Ray McDonald who played in his team’s first game of the season despite facing felony domestic violence charges and Greg Hardy, who has also been allowed to continue playing after being convicted in July of choking and threatening his girlfriend.

“The only workable solution is for Roger Goodell to resign,” O’Neill says, “and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the NFL community, and to recommend real and lasting reforms.”

Blumenthal even used some of Goodell’s own words to criticize the commissioner. When doling out suspensions to New Orleans Saints players and coaches two years ago, Goodell claimed that “ignorance is not an excuse.” Blumenthal echoed those words, noting that the NFL “has an obligation to do better.”

“The current leadership of the NFL cannot be trusted to fairly, genuinely implement policies that address domestic violence,” Blumenthal said.

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Former FBI Director to Lead Investigation into NFL’s Handling of Ray Rice Situation

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The National Football League announced on Wednesday night that an investigation into its handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident will be led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller III.

A statement put out by the league announced the investigation, which will be overseen by John Mara, owner of the NFL’s New York Giants, and Art Rooney, owner of the league’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Both owners are attorneys.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Mueller will receive full access to league records and the cooperation of all league personnel.

Mueller served as director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013, under two presidents, and is currently a partner in the law firm WilmerHale, based in Washington, D.C.

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Ravens Missed Chance to See Ray Rice Video: Sources

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Baltimore Ravens knew shortly after running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator that a surveillance video of the assault existed and that Rice’s lawyer had a copy of the video, but never asked to see it, sources told ABC News Wednesday.

And the claim by Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, that the league was unaware of the brutality of Rice’s assault on his then-fiancee Janay Palmer has also come under a cloud because a police report at the time stated clearly that Rice committed assault “by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious.”

Rice, 27, was initially suspended for two games for what was described by his lawyer as a “minor physical altercation” on Feb. 15.

The Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely earlier this week after TMZ.com released a video showing Rice twice hitting Palmer in the elevator, with the second punch knocking her out.

Both the team and league have said they asked for the video, but police and prosecutors did not turn it over because it was part of a grand jury hearing.

But two sources briefed on the incident and behind-the-scenes discussions regarding the tape told ABC News that the Ravens knew that the tape existed and knew what was on the tape almost immediately after the incident.

The seriousness of Rice’s confrontation with his then-fiancee, who is now his wife and who goes by Janay Rice, was first indicated when a surveillance video surfaced on Feb. 19 showing Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of the elevator at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. When that video surfaced, Ray Rice’s lawyer asked the hotel for the full tape, and Revel handed it over, sources told ABC News.

The Ravens also asked the hotel for the full video, but were told by Revel they couldn’t give it out to anyone except someone who was a party to what’s on the tape or to law enforcement, the sources said. But Revel officials told the team that Rice’s attorney had a copy and the Ravens should ask the lawyer for the tape, the sources told ABC News.

The Ravens did not ask Rice or his lawyer for a copy of the video. Instead, the Ravens and the NFL asked law enforcement for the video, which declined to give it up.

It’s not clear whether the league was in contact with the Ravens about the incident at this time.

Rice said in his July news conference when he apologized for his actions that he thought the league had all the relevant material, although neither the league nor his team had seen the full video.

The full video was released by TMZ.com earlier this week, showing the punch that promptly left Palmer sprawled on the elevator floor. That video triggered public outrage and resulted in Rice being kicked out of the NFL.

In Goodell’s version of events, he said the league acted after seeing the full video, which he called “extremely clear, was extremely graphic, and it was sickening.” League officials have suggested they had not been aware of the full detail of Rice’s assault on Janay Rice.

But documents obtained Wednesday by ABC News show that Atlantic City police reported almost immediately that Ray Rice’s assault knocked her out. Rice committed the assault “by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino,” according to the ACPD summons on file at city court in Atlantic City.

A release from the Atlantic City cops at the time also stated that police made the arrests after “reviewing surveillance footage.”

The Ravens have not immediately responded to ABC News’ requests for comment. The NFL has said simply that it asked law enforcement for the video and it wasn’t given to them.

“We did not ask the Atlantic City casino directly for the video,” the NFL said. “Again, our understanding of New Jersey law is that the casino is prohibited from turning over material to a third party during a law enforcement proceeding, and that doing so would have subjected individuals to prosecution for interference with a criminal investigation.”

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First Death Reported Linked to Northern California Quake

ABC News(LOS ANGELES) — The 6.0-magnitude earthquake that struck northern California last month has now been linked to the death of a 65-year-old woman.

Laurie Anne Thompson was hit in the head by a TV that fell during the shaking at her Napa home. After the incident, she was alert and did not show any signs of cognitive impairment, according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. But a day later, her family convinced her to go to the hospital after she felt dizzy and suffered a decline in mental function.

Thompson’s condition continued to worsen while she was at the hospital, and she died of a brain hemorrhage on Sept. 5.

She was the only fatal victim of the quake, although scores of people were injured.

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Man Sleepwalks over Cliff While Camping

iStock/Thinkstock(SLADE, Ky.) — The Ohio man who fell 60 feet off a cliff when we went sleepwalking while on a camping trip says as soon as he landed he thought he was going to die.

A rhododendron bush saved his life.

“I was sure I was dead, or at least severely messed up,” Ryan Campbell told ABC News. “You don’t think you’re going to fall that far and walk away from it.”

Campbell, 27, was camping with friends in Grays Arch Trail in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge last week when he fell asleep in a hammock.

One hour later, early last Thursday morning, Campbell got out of the hammock and began sleepwalking. While his friends watched, Campbell walked right over a nearby cliff, plunging 60 feet below.

When rescuers rappelled down the mountain to Campbell, they found him miraculously alive and with no life-threatening injuries.

“I was pretty shocked that I couldn’t really find any discernable injuries,” Wolfe County Search and Rescue officer David Fifer told ABC News.

Rescuers placed Campbell in a basket to hoist him back up the mountain, giving Campbell a chance to see how far he had fallen.

“It was surreal coming up the way I came down, because I got to see every foot of this cliff that I’d just flown over,” Campbell said.

Rescuers attribute Campbell’s soft landing to the fact that, in an area full of rocks and boulders, Campbell landed on a rhododendron bush.

“Otherwise, more likely than not, it would have been a fatal fall,” Wolfe County Search and Rescue officer John May told ABC News.

Campbell was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was treated for a head injury, a dislocated shoulder and a fractured leg and released.

Though he is expected to make a full recovery, Campbell says rescuers will not have to worry about coming out to save him ever again.

“I’m not going to put myself in a position to have that happen again,” Campbell said.

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Satanists to Hold Controversial Black Mass in Oklahoma

iStock/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) — A devil-worshiping group hell-bent on hosting a satanic black mass is planning to go ahead with its controversial ceremony this month, despite fervent protests by residents of Oklahoma City and a lawsuit from the Catholic Church.

The co-founder of Dakhma of Angra Mainyu told ABC News that the religious and educational organization decided to hold the black mass in public, but it will be a “tamer” version than some traditional satanic ceremonies. For instance, they’ll substitute vinegar for acts involving urine, in order to comply with state health laws.

The upcoming event has generated controversy because black masses mock Christianity and the rituals that make up their services, but organizers see it as an integral part of their religion.

“One of the dictates of the church is not only to educate the members but to educate the public,” Dakhma of Angra Mainyu’s Adam Daniels said, “and to debunk the Hollywood-projected image of our beliefs.”

Daniels said all 88 tickets to the Sept. 21 event — held at the theater in the city’s civic center — have been sold. The parks and recreation department, which rented the space to the group for $420, cited First Amendment protections in allowing the group to meet in a public facility.

“Mr. Daniels must abide by our local ordinances, our fire codes and all of our state laws,” Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock told ABC News. “No bloodletting of any kind will be allowed.”

A $17.50 ticket buys participants a front-row seat to the festivities, which include a performance from the band “God in a Machine” and readings that call for the renunciation of God. Male participants and audience members are encouraged to wear black, hooded, full-length robes, but evening wear is also appropriate for spectators.

Anthony Briggman, an assistant professor of theology at Emory University in Atlanta, explained that the general motivating principles behind satanic groups – including Dakhma of Angra Mainyu – is to “parody” Roman Catholic liturgy by “demonstrating their opposition to orthodox Christian beliefs and practices.”

“The line between parody and mockery is a fuzzy one and it is unclear to me on which side of the line they usually fall,” he said of satanic groups in general.

“The goal seems to be to acquire some of the spiritual power [and] magic that they associate with the Roman Catholic ritual of transubstantiation, the transformation of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ,” Briggman said.

Co-founder Daniels said the Sept. 21 ceremony will take place before an altar-like table where a woman lies clad in lingerie — another concession to reflect the state’s nudity laws.

The culmination of the event comes when the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu deacons and priest stomp on the unconsecrated host and spit on it. Daniels said organizers will wear profane costumes, use explicit language and desecrate the fake host, which Catholics believe symbolizes the resurrected Christ.

Professor Briggman said that in other instances, he has “heard the reports of ritualistic practices of sex, bloodletting, and sacrifice … but it is unclear to me how much these reports are hyperbole designed to capture the attention of the press and public.”

Daniels said the Oklahoma City ceremony will wrap up with a Satanic exorcism intended to draw the Holy Spirit from the follower’s body, which contrasts with traditional exorcisms that are designed to expel the devil from the individual.

“Our practices have gotten it to about 22 to 25 minutes,” Daniels said of the ritual.

Additional controversy has surrounded this particular event because the Oklahoma City Archdiocese filed a lawsuit against Daniels’ group after media reports that he was in possession of a consecrated host, a wafer that some Catholics believe is literally the body of Christ.

The host in question has since been handed over to the archdiocese and the legal action has been stopped, but that has not put all of the Archbishop’s concerns to rest.

“I remain concerned about the dark powers that this satanic worship invites into our community and the spiritual danger that this poses to all who are involved in it, directly or indirectly,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said in a statement.

The group is separate from The Satanic Temple, a national group with similar beliefs that has long fought with Oklahoma City officials about the right to have a statue of the devil placed prominently in the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Lucien Greaves, the leader of The Satanic Temple, told ABC News that Dakhma of Angra Mainyu may be timing its black mass in order to coincide with the publicity drummed up by The Satanic Temple’s legal battle for the devil statue.

“I have a feeling that they’re rather inspired by the attention that our activity has gotten,” Greaves told ABC News, “but I don’t think there’s a particularly higher concentration in Oklahoma than anywhere else.”

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Calls Renewed for Arrest of Ferguson Police Officer

Scott Olson/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) — The St. Louis County Police Department has been called upon to arrest Ferguson Police Office Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown following an altercation.

Since the incident a month ago, more witnesses have come forward to claim that Brown had his hands raised when Wilson fired his weapon, striking the teen six times, including a bullet to the head that killed him.

The racially-charged case resulted in nights of protests and civil unrest that was only calmed after a visit by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Members of the Ferguson chapter of the National Action Network were joined by Brown’s parents Tuesday in demanding that Wilson, who is now on administrative leave, be arrested, charged, photographed and indicted.

Because the Ferguson Police Department is no longer handling the case, and in fact, is being investigated itself by the Justice Department, community activists are urging the St. Louis County Police Department to put Wilson behind bars while a grand jury decides whether to indict him for the shooting.

Rev. Carlton Lee, National Action Network chapter president, told reporters, “We believe there is enough evidence to arrest Officer Darren Wilson. If probable cause is enough to arrest civilians, then it is enough to arrest police officers.”

In other developments, a group of protesters calling themselves the “Justice for Michael Brown Coalition” announced that they planned to shut down a stretch of highway in St. Louis as an act of civil disobedience Wednesday.

The group claims that it has a series of acts of civil disobedience planned, and that the first one will take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday near Interstate 70 and Hanley Road in St. Louis.

The organizers are planning a rally in a public parking lot, followed by a plan to block traffic at 4:30 p.m. That time is intended to symbolize the four and a half hours that Brown’s body was left on the street after he was shot and killed Wilson.

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Calls Renewed for Arrest of Ferguson Police Officer

Scott Olson/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) — The St. Louis County Police Department has been called upon to arrest Ferguson Police Office Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown following an altercation.

Since the incident a month ago, more witnesses have come forward to claim that Brown had his hands raised when Wilson fired his weapon, striking the teen six times, including a bullet to the head that killed him.

The racially-charged case resulted in nights of protests and civil unrest that was only calmed after a visit by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Members of the Ferguson chapter of the National Action Network were joined by Brown’s parents Tuesday in demanding that Wilson, who is now on administrative leave, be arrested, charged, photographed and indicted.

Because the Ferguson Police Department is no longer handling the case, and in fact, is being investigated itself by the Justice Department, community activists are urging the St. Louis County Police Department to put Wilson behind bars while a grand jury decides whether to indict him for the shooting.

Rev. Carlton Lee, National Action Network chapter president, told reporters, “We believe there is enough evidence to arrest Officer Darren Wilson. If probable cause is enough to arrest civilians, then it is enough to arrest police officers.”

In other developments, a group of protesters calling themselves the “Justice for Michael Brown Coalition” announced that they planned to shut down a stretch of highway in St. Louis as an act of civil disobedience Wednesday.

The group claims that it has a series of acts of civil disobedience planned, and that the first one will take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday near Interstate 70 and Hanley Road in St. Louis.

The organizers are planning a rally in a public parking lot, followed by a plan to block traffic at 4:30 p.m. That time is intended to symbolize the four and a half hours that Brown’s body was left on the street after he was shot and killed Wilson.

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Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones Sued for Alleged Sex Attack

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(DALLAS) — In yet another piece of bad publicity for the NFL, a 27-year-old Oklahoma woman has sued the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones, claiming the owner sexually attacked her in 2009 and the team tried to cover it up.

Jana Weckerly alleges in her suit that Jones touched her inappropriately and forced her to watch him engage in other sexual acts. She says the Dallas Cowboys, rather than reporting the incident to police, coerced her to sign documents that nothing untoward occurred.

According to Thomas D. Bowers, Weckerly’s attorney, the amount of time between the alleged attack and when the lawsuit was filed is a “normal thing.”

In response, Levi McCathern, a lawyer for Jones, said in an email, “This is nothing more than an attempt to embarrass and extort Jerry Jones. This is a shakedown by a lawyer who is a solo practitioner just trying to make a name for himself.”

Weckerly wants $1 million in punitive damages. The NFL had no comment on the suit.

Jones, 71, has been the Cowboys’ owner and general manager since 1989. He is married with three grown children, who all work in the team’s front office.

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Ravens Owner Acknowledges ‘Mistake’ in Handling of Ray Rice Situation

Harry How/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) — Baltimore Ravens owner Stephen Bisciotti wrote a letter to the team’s fans and sponsors Tuesday, addressing the team’s handling of the Ray Rice situation and stating that the Ravens could have handled things differently.

“First, let us say that we did not do all we should have done and no amount of explanation can remedy that,” Bisciotti wrote in the letter, which was posted on the team’s website.

Rice and his then-fiancee, Janay Rice, were involved in a Feb. 15 altercation in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. The Ravens initially supported Rice following the incident, but terminated the running back’s contract Monday after a second video from the February assault emerged.

The newly-emerged video shows Janay Palmer, now Rice’s wife, being hit in the face in the elevator. Palmer then lunges at the running back before he delivers a blow that knocks her out. When the elevator doors open, Rice drags Palmer’s body outside, leaving her face down on the floor, her legs still inside the elevator.

A previous video only showed the scene outside the elevator.

The letter posted on the team’s website, addressed to Ravens stakeholders, begins, “You deserve an explanation.”

Bisciotti wrote that following the incident, team officials spoke to Rice, Palmer, the casino management, police and prosecutors.

“In March, the prosecutor dropped the case against Janay, but elevated the charge against Ray from simple assault to aggravated assault,” the letter says. “At this point, we decided to defer action until completion of the court proceedings. We stopped seeking to view or obtain a copy of the video. We halted our fact-finding. That was a mistake on our part.”

But the letter indicates that the team, like the NFL, was taking its lead from how law enforcement was handling the case, and police and prosecutors had seen the full video.

“In May, the prosecutor recommended, and the judge agreed, that Ray should be accepted into a pre-trial intervention program that will eventually have the assault charge dismissed from his record, pending a year of good behavior,” Bisciotti wrote in the letter.

“The police had seen video from inside the elevator,” it continues. “The prosecutor and the judge, who had also seen such video, allowed Ray into the program that would eventually clear him of the assault charge.”

Rice and Palmer met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16. Weeks later, Goodell announced that Rice would be suspended for the first two games of the season.

Seeing the video, however, “changed everything,” Bisciotti said.

“It is violent and horrifying,” he said. “I immediately came to the office and called a meeting with [team president] Dick Cass, [general manager] Ozzie Newsome, [coach] John Harbaugh and [senior vice president of public relations] Kevin Byrne. The meeting was relatively short. The decision to let Ray Rice go was unanimous. Seeing that video changed everything. We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn’t and we were wrong.”

He said that Rice had “earned every benefit of the doubt” from the team because of his contributions on and off the field for six years.

“We took everything we knew and decided to support Ray Rice until we could not,” he said.

Spokesmen for the New Jersey state Attorney General and the Atlantic City Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment.

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