Review Category : Top Stories

Ohio Teen Takes His Mom to Prom Since She Never Attended Her Own

Courtesy of Melissa Roshan Potter(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — An Ohio mom had her teenage wish come true when her son took her to his senior prom, an event she never got to attend.

When MelissaRoshan Potter was a teenager, she was transitioning from foster care to motherhood. So when her 18-year-old son Trey asked her to his senior prom at Gahanna-Lincoln High School in Gahanna, Ohio, she jumped at the chance.

“I was initially shocked because it’s an incredibly selfless act and my heart was just overwhelmed with gratitude because it was so sweet,” she told ABC News of being asked to prom. “I felt very stoked and excited. I was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m about to get the best dress and turn up at the prom!'”

Her son Trey said he asked his mother to prom because “she was a teen mom and from all the stories she told me it’s made me realize that to be a parent it takes a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time and energy.”

MelissaRoshan, 36, lived with her son in a homeless shelter for the first two years of his life due to financial struggles stemming from her difficult childhood.

“My mother had me at 13 by rape. So I was subsequently placed in the foster care system when I was 10,” she explained. “I’ve lived in 23 foster care and group homes, and have endured physical abuse, sexual abuse and child labor abuse. There was many times I thought I wasn’t going to make it out of the system.”

The Columbus, Ohio, mom said it was the love she had for Trey that made her defy the odds, later becoming a makeup artist and an advocate for foster care youth. She’s even a spokeswoman for Children’s Rights, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for foster children.

“It wasn’t easy. Emotionally it was hard seeing my friends going off to prom [and] getting ready to graduate, when I had a baby,” MelissaRoshan said. “But he was so precious and so cute…when I first had him. He cracked me this smile and I thought to myself, ‘I will never leave you.'”

MelissaRoshan told ABC News she had a ball at the April 16 prom, held inside the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in downtown Columbus, wearing a coral Vera Wang gown.

“I didn’t miss out on prom. I gained,” she said. “When I made the choice to have [Trey], I knew I was going to ‘miss’ a lot of things but when you choose love, it’s a gain and it’s all worth it. And I truly mean that.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Florida Homeless Woman Learning to Read Now Has a Place to Live

Courtesy of Greg Smith(ORLANDO, Fla.) — A Florida man who garnered much attention on social media after he began teaching a homeless woman how to read now reports that the woman is off the streets.

Greg Smith posted to Facebook on Tuesday that the woman who introduced herself as “Amy Jo” has “checked into her hotel today.”

Smith, 25, told ABC News that Amy Jo is living in a downtown Orlando, Florida, hotel room “until I can get something permanent.”

“I’ve got a number of people working on trying to find her a place where she can stay for the rest of her life,” he added. “Hopefully a place where she can live and work.”

Former Homeless Veteran ‘on Top of the World’ After Moving Into Apartment

The sales account executive initially shared how he met Amy Jo last month in a now-viral Facebook post. He recalled that instead of asking for money, Amy Jo offered him polite greetings. It led to the two having lunch every Tuesday.

During one meal, Smith learned that Amy Jo was illiterate and offered to teach her how to read through books he borrowed from the library.

Smith said that after their weekly lunch date earlier this week, he had a surprise for Amy Jo.

“I said, ‘We’re gonna take a little walk’ since the hotel was three or four blocks away from the restaurant we were at,” he recalled.

Smith said when Amy Jo realized where they were headed, she gasped and began to cry.

Since checking in on Tuesday, Smith has stopped by Amy Jo’s hotel to drop off many donations he’s received to help her, including groceries, clothes and money.

Smith also said Amy Jo told him she took three showers. “She’s excited,” he added. “She said, ‘I’m so happy that we met’ and hugged me and said, ‘I love you.'”

Smith plans to continue checking in on her as he looks to establish a foundation in her honor to help other homeless people in his community. He also plans to set up a P.O. box later this week to better field donations pouring in.

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SpaceX Rocket Successfully Clears First Stage in Launch from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX/Flickr(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean platform during a mission to launch a Japanese commercial communications satellite into orbit early Friday morning.

The launch happened at 1:20 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Landing confirmed. Second stage continuing to carry JCSAT-14 to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. pic.twitter.com/HfHI5cwoYX

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 6, 2016

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk previously thought that the landing would be more challenging than their previous successful landing because the rocket would be reentering the atmosphere much faster and hotter.

Woohoo!! https://t.co/0P8n8VmFbr

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 6, 2016

Experts were skeptical about the mission, but during a live web broadcast SpaceX staffers erupted into applause and cheers as the rocket landed. Even the launch commentator enthusiastically declared, “The Falcon has landed.”

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Colorado Springs to Re-Pay Those Sent to Debtor’s Prison

ACLU of Colorado(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — The City of Colorado Springs, which has sentenced hundreds of poor people to debtors prison, has agreed to not only end the unconstitutional practice of converting court fines to jail time, but to also to pay back those who were wrongfully jailed.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) announced the settlement in a statement Thursday.

“The City of Colorado Springs has agreed, as part of a $103,000 settlement with the ACLU of Colorado, to stop converting impoverished defendants’ fines into jail time, to stop sentencing defendants to jail for non-jailable offenses, and to compensate dozens of individuals whose court fines were illegally converted to jail time when they could not afford to pay,” the ACLU said in its statement.

Imprisoning people because they are poor and cannot afford to pay court fines violates both federal and state laws against debtors prisons in Colorado.

“We discovered what was going on and wrote the city a letter in October saying you need to stop this practice,” Mark Silverstein, the legal director of ACLU of Colorado, told ABC News Thursday, “and you need to set up a fund to pay these people back.”

The city has agreed to compensation terms of $125 a day for each day wrongfully imprisoned, and 66 people are eligible to receive compensation, Silverstein said, explaining that many of these people can be hard to track down because they may be homeless, so they are working on how to get their money to them.

“The defendants were usually visibly poor or homeless,” Silverstein said, noting that offenses they were picked up for included jaywalking, staying in a park after curfew, open containers of alcohol, and other non-jailable offenses. “They were fined, then these fines were converted to jail time.”

Shawn Hardman, an ACLU client, will receive more than $11,000 as part of this settlement.

“I was told over and over that I either had to pay or go back to jail. Without a home or a job, the cycle kept repeating,” Hardman said in a statement.

“I am thankful for this settlement, because it will help me keep a roof over my head, something I have wanted for a long time. Even more, I am proud that the settlement will protect other people living on the streets in Colorado Springs from going through what I went through — being jailed just because I was poor,” he said.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said he was “pleased with the process” of collaborating with the ACLU.

“While we admittedly found some areas that required correction, I am pleased to report that our Municipal Court, City attorneys and Councilmembers worked expeditiously to correct the situation upon learning of the non-compliance,” Suthers said in a statement today. “Overall, this process has been collaborative and productive and ultimately will result in improvements to our court and enforcement processes.”

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Anonymous Twitter Describes Alleged Gang Rape at College Party

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images(ATLANTA) — An anonymous Twitter account, which claims to be written by a student at a women’s college, has prompted two investigations into an alleged sexual assault.

The Twitter user, who says she is a freshman at Spelman College in Atlanta, wrote the first post on May 2, “surrounded by 4 Morehouse students who took me to another room and took turns raping me. I was in shock about what had happened.”

The user @RapedAtSpelman writes about the alleged assault, which apparently took place more than a month ago, and her subsequent interactions she claims she had with university staff over a series of 12 tweets. She added that she created the anonymous account because she doesn’t believe the colleges would take sexual assault claims seriously and in order to avoid “blame & bash” she believes is often doled out to victims by other students.

Officials from both Spelman College and Morehouse College, which are both historically black colleges, have responded publicly.

“Our hearts go out to this student and I want to personally offer her our full support and assistance,” Spelman College president Dr. Mary Schmidt said in a statement released to ABC News.

“We are a family at Spelman and we will not tolerate any episode of sexual violence. No student should ever have to suffer and endure the experience she has recounted on social media. Spelman is conducting a full and thorough review of these events,” the statement reads.

She also reached out to the anonymous account over Twitter.

The president of Morehouse College also released a statement saying that he “deeply troubled” by the allegations.

“At Morehouse, we take seriously all allegations of sexual assault and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that our students and students throughout the Atlanta University Center are encouraged to report any such incidents,” the school’s president John Silvanus Wilson Jr. wrote.

“Both our Office of Campus Safety and the Title IX Office have been activated to fully investigate the allegations with the limited information that we have,” the statement said, before also calling on students to come forward about any other sexual assaults.

The @RapedAtSpelman account now has more than 2,600 followers.

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New Clues Emerge in Case of Mom Found Murdered in Texas Church

Midlothian Police Department(MIDLOTIAN, Texas) — New clues are emerging in the case of a mother found murdered in a church in Texas last month, according to search warrants released by the Midltohian Police Department Thursday citing “persons of interest” in the case.

Terri “Missy” Bevers, a fitness instructor and mother of three, was found murdered at Creekside Church of Christ in Midlotian, Texas, on April 18. She had been scheduled to teach a fitness boot camp class at the church, according to police.

Surveillance video from the church showed an unidentified suspect wearing full tactical gear — including a heavy helmet, gloves and jacket with the word “POLICE” on the front and back — disguising the person’s gender and identity. The suspect had a distinctive walk, which police were hoping someone might be able to identify.

Though police have not yet identified the person on the video or any other suspects in the case, several persons of interest and other details have been described in search warrants issued for AT&T cellphone records and LinkedIn messaging records.

Here’s what the warrants reveal:

Bevers Received a “Strange and Creepy” Message Days Before Her Death

A friend of Bevers told investigators that “less than three days before the murder,” Bevers received a “creepy and strange” message on LinkedIn from a male unknown to them both, according to the search warrant for Bevers’ LinkedIn records.

The friend could not recall the name of the person on the account that sent the message, police said.

Bevers Had an “Ongoing Financial and Marital Struggle” And Extramarital Affairs

Evidence police extracted from Bevers’ and her husband’s iPhones and an iPad, along with several tips provided to officers, revealed that Bevers had “an ongoing financial and marital struggle as well as intimate/personal relationship(s) external to the marriage” with persons of interest, according to the search warrant for AT&T cellphone records.

A “Person of Interest” Had “Fliratious” Communications With Bevers on LinkedIn

Police said that a “person of interest confirmed that they had engaged in a series of communications” with Bevers while on LinkedIn some time around January this year, until her death. The “person of interest” added that their communications ultimately turned “flirtatious and familiar,” police added in the search warrant for LinkedIn records.

How the Unknown Murder Suspect May Have Used a Cell Phone

According to the search warrant for AT&T records, police said they believe the unknown suspect could have used the cell phone to:
– confirm the Bevers’ workout times and locations, which she had publicly posted to social media
– communicate with Bevers through calls, messages, texts, emails, data, push-to-talk and/or walky-talky
– photograph, record and/or video the victim and the murderous act
– access applications and tools such as map locator applications, clock or timing capabilities, GPS locating applications and flashlight

No official suspects have yet been named.

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President Obama Commutes Sentences of 58 More Convicts

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama granted commutations of sentences to 58 convicted criminals Thursday, including 18 individuals serving life sentences, boosting his total to 306 granted petitions, more than the previous six presidents combined and the most of any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

“As President, I’ve been working to bring about a more effective approach to our criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to drug crimes,” Obama wrote in a post explaining his decision Thursday.

The president also implored Congress to reform federal sentencing laws, “particularly on overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.”

“While I will continue to review clemency applications, only Congress can bring about the lasting changes we need to federal sentencing,” the president noted. “Because it just doesn’t make sense to require a nonviolent drug offender to serve 20 years, or in some cases, life, in prison. An excessive punishment like that doesn’t fit the crime. It’s not serving taxpayers, and it’s not making us safer.”

Obama has received a striking number of petitions for clemency during his tenure: more than 22,000 — more than double the number received during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Nearly all of those granted commutations of sentences Thursday were convicted of drug-related offenses, mostly for possession or conspiring to distribute cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, heroin, piperidinocyclohexane-carbonitrile (PCP) and marijuana.

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Man Calls 911 After Hearing Wife Being Kidnapped on Bluetooth

BananaStock/Thinkstock(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) — A South Florida man recently helped save his wife’s life by calling 911 after he heard her being kidnapped at gunpoint through the Bluetooth earpiece she had on at the time, according to officials.

The harrowing incident happened this past Tuesday when 49-year-old Priscilla Cercone was sitting in her car in front of her Hollywood, Florida, home, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by ABC News.

Cercone had just picked up the mail and was talking to her husband via the Bluetooth device when a 21-year-old man — later identified by authorities as Bernard Owens — suddenly approached Cercone, pointed a handgun at her and “ordered her to open the back door of her car or he would kill her,” the affidavit states. Cercone “feared for her life,” so she opened the door for Owens, who then ordered her to start driving, according to the affidavit.

Owens pointed the handgun at Cercone’s head while she was driving and demanded that she take him to an ATM after she told him she did not have any money on her, according to the affidavit.

Cercone’s husband was still on the phone with her via the Bluetooth device and tried to ask what was happening, the affidavit states, but Cercone was “too fearful” to respond, and Owens eventually took her cellphone from her.

Having heard the exchange, Cercone’s husband called 911, ABC affiliate WPLG reported.

Meanwhile, Cercone drove to a nearby bank and withdrew $400, which she gave to Owens, who then demanded she drive back to her house, according to the affidavit. As they were driving, Owens then demanded to know what valuables she had at home and who was inside, according to the affidavit.

Thanks to the 911 call Cercone’s husband had made, police were already at her home by the time she got there, according to the affidavit. When Cercone spotted them, she jumped out of her moving vehicle, the affidavit states.

Owens also jumped out and tried to run from police, but he was eventually caught and arrested, police said. One officer located a firearm that a witness told police Owens had tossed while trying to run away, according to the affidavit. Bernard’s money and cellphone were also located on him.

Owens has been charged with robbery with a firearm, possession of a weapon or ammo by a convicted Florida felon, false imprisonment of an adult, and kidnapping with intent to commit or facilitate commission of a felony, according to online court records for Broward County in Florida. Owens has been booked into Broward County Jail with no bond.

A county court spokeswoman told ABC News Thursday that Owens has not yet obtained an attorney and that he has not yet entered a plea to the charges against him.

Cercone did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests Thursday for additional comment.

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Military Sexual Assault Reports Level Off

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The 6,083 reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military last year remained almost level with the previous year, but Pentagon officials who released the latest statistics remain concerned that service members continue to report sexual assault at a high rate.

The 6,083 reported incidents in fiscal year 2015 are 48 fewer than the number of incidents reported in 2014. But, when the numbers are adjusted to account for the reduced sizes of the four military services since the previous report, the rate of reporting remains at four reports per 1,000.

The military defines sexual assault to mean incidents including sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact and rape.

Major General Camille Nichols, director of the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said it was unclear if two years of roughly equal numbers indicates a plateau has been reached in the number of incident reports.

“We’re not sure if we’ve plateaued,” said Nichols. “It’s too early to tell that, we do know we haven’t often had everyone reporting and we are still on a campaign to do that.”

Service members can report sexual assault incidents in unrestricted or restricted reports. Restricted reporting allows sexual assault victims to get medical treatment and mental health counseling without notifying their chain of command. At any time, they can change their case to unrestricted reporting, which notifies their chain of command and triggers an investigation.

This year’s statistics showed that 21 percent of restricted reports were eventually converted to unrestricted reports.

“This is encouraging as we believe it to be an indicator of growing confidence in a justice system that is now better configured to hear the voice of the victim,” Nichols said.

Nearly 3,000 reports were considered for possible prosecution or action under the military judicial system. Seventy-two percent of those cases were dealt with through court-martials, non-judicial punishment, administrative action or discharges. Twenty-five percent of those cases were not acted upon because there may not have been enough evidence, the statute of limitations had passed or the victim declined to press charges.

Four hundred and thirty-seven cases were sent to prosecution, which resulted in 254 convictions for unwanted sexual contact. There were also another 158 convictions for issues like fraternization, adultery or giving false statements.

Nichols said she was also encouraged by a command climate survey of active duty service members that found that 16,000 took action in situations where they believed people were at risk for sexual assault.

“We need to capitalize on this ‘move to act’ and continue to ensure our people understand the risk factors that lead to sexual assault and feel confident to do their part in these situations,” said Nichols.

Though the numbers of reported sexual assaults have increased in recent years, Pentagon officials have acknowledged that reported sexual assaults likely only make up a quarter of the estimated 26,000 assaults that occur in the military. That estimate is extrapolated from a survey conducted every two years.

For the second year in a row, the number of males reporting remained near 20 percent, a significant increase from the early days of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

“Still, men remain less likely to report the crime than women,” said Nichols. “Encouraging greater involvement by men in prevention and reporting remains a major area of focus for us.”

Some of the male victims stepping forward initially considered that they may have been “physically manhandled” as part of a “hazing or a right of passage ritual” said Nichols. “Only later on after hearing and seeing definitions they say ‘Oh, I was sexually assaulted.’”

She said her office is working to fill in gaps for medical and non-medical ways to care for male victims.

Nichols said that 504 of the sexual assaults reported by service members had occurred prior to their having entered the military. She said that the goal is to help military victims regardless of when the sexual assault occurred.

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Alabama Prisons Enter Lockdown on Heels of Coordinated Labor Strike

iStock/Thinkstock(ELMORE, Ala.) — Inmates at as many as five Alabama prisons have been engaged in a coordinated labor strike for the last five days, sending two facilities into a state of lockdown, according to the state’s Department of Corrections.

The labor strikes, which were launched to coincide with May Day, an international day of celebration for socialists and other advocates of workers’ rights, has been staged by a group of prisoners calling themselves the “Free Alabama Movement,” which aims to raise awareness of what the inmates describe as inhumane living conditions, worker exploitation and an atmosphere that promotes recidivism.

Alabama’s prisons are considered among the most violent in the country, according to Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, who runs a non-denominational organization that focuses on inmates’ rights called the Ordinary People Network based in Dolan, Alabama.

“Recidivism is guaranteed in living conditions like these,” Melvin Ray, the founder of the Free Alabama Movement, told ABC News from inside of the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, one of the prisons participating in the strike. “If I want to smoke crack, I can smoke crack right now. But as I’m talking to you, there are 96 men on both sides of me and not a single one of them can get access to a book.”

Ray, 45, said he is serving a life sentence for murder.

Bob Horton, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, told ABC News that lockdowns of William C. Holman Correctional Facility and Elmore Correctional Facility, which are located in Atmore and Elmore, Alabama, respectively, were necessary, he said, because guards were carrying on the work typically performed by inmates, like food preparation, recycling duty and laundry, and were unable to perform their normal workloads due to the strikes. He said that the other prisons participating in the strikes did not require lockdown because the numbers of inmates participating were not high enough to stop workflow.

Horton denied Ray’s claim about books, and says that Donaldson prison has a library. The state offers educational and vocational training for prisoners, as well as mental health services, Horton said. He acknowledged that drugs are a problem in many prisons.

“Lockdown” typically pertains to a state in which prisoners are forbidden from leaving their cells.

The phenomenon of coordinated prison strikes has been advanced largely through the help of mobile technology, which has enabled inmates to plan strikes such as these using cellphones, which are considered contraband in Alabama prisons, according to Horton.

Ray argues that phones, which are commonplace in prison, are only treated as contraband because they allow inmates to expose unsafe living and working conditions through photographs and video to the outside world. Horton said that possession of a cellphone in Alabama prisons is a felony offense because it can be used for criminal activity, such as drug deals. Also, he denied that living and working conditions inside of the prisons are inhumane, or that they promote recidivism.

The Free Alabama Movement’s website and Facebook page, which are maintained in part through the help of family members and other advocates of prisoner rights, showcase photos and videos taken with mobile devices that feature Ray and others demonstrating the motives behind their actions through what they claim is a virtual tour of their daily lives. Some of the videos purport to show exposed wiring, rotting hamburger meat, rats and other alleged potential health hazards. Other videos feature interviews with inmates who claim to be in need of mental health treatment, or men performing manual labor allegedly without compensation.

“These inmates organizing the strikes haven’t made any demands, so we don’t know what they want,” Horton told ABC News by phone. “They’re talking to the media but not to us.”

Horton also noted that some prisoners are compensated for labor in work release programs, and that the state has a program called Alabama Correctional Industries, where crafts and furniture created by inmates, who are paid between $0.25 and $0.75 per hour, are sold to the public.

That’s not enough, Glasgow told ABC News.

Glasgow, who is the brother of civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, served 14 years in prison on drug-related charges, and acts as a spiritual adviser to Ray, as well as other incarcerated members of the Free Alabama Movement.

“We need new language to discuss this subject,” Glasgow said. “These are people, not just prisoners. And what these labor strikes can do is draw attention to that fact.”

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