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Two in Ferguson Charged With Lying on Forms to Buy Guns Ahead of Grand Jury Deci

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Federal authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, charged two men with lying on forms to purchase guns ahead of the grand jury decision in the police shooting of Michael Brown.Olajuwon Davis and Brandon Baldwin only faced those charges as of late Friday, but sources told ABC News that authorities were looking into whether they tried to acquire ready-made explosives and other weapons ahead of the decision, which is expected soon.Neither man had a lawyer listed on court documents.The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives played a part in the arrest.The two men are believed to be associated with radical groups and the charges that were filed were intended to "take them out of the rotation," said one source.The FBI has sent about 100 agents to the St. Louis area to help deal with any problems that could arise from the grand jury decision.St. Louis authorities said earlier Friday that the grand jury was still meeting. The panel will decide whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, who was unarmed, on Aug. 9.The FBI declined to comment on its operation in Ferguson.Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency earlier this week and activated the Missouri National Guard to help keep order if necessary.Michael Brown Sr., the father of the slain teen, issued a videotaped appeal this week for protester to remain peaceful whatever the verdict.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Two Men Walk Free After 40 Years in Prison for Crime They Didn't Commit

iStock/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) -- On May 25, 1975, Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman went to jail for a murder they didn’t commit. Sentenced to death on the testimony of a single juvenile witness, the men continued to protest their innocence through years of incarceration.On Friday, nearly 40 years later, they walked out of prison as free men after the state’s witness in the case admitted that he concocted his testimony under police intimidation.A case suffused with emotion culminated in exoneration Friday morning, when Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle formally dismissed all charges against Jackson after a brief hearing. Bridgeman, whose case was heard separately, was exonerated two hours later by Judge David Matia.The two joined Bridgeman’s younger brother Ronnie, now known as Kwame Ajamu, who was found guilty of the same crime and eventually paroled in 2003.The three were originally jailed for the 1975 murder of Harry Franks, a Cleveland businessman, after a 12-year-old witness named Edward Vernon told police that he had seen them attack the victim. No physical evidence linked them to the crime scene. Jackson was just 19 years old when he was sentenced to die, Wiley Bridgeman was 20, and Ronnie Bridgeman was 17.“The English language doesn’t have words to express how I’m feeling right now,” Jackson, now 58, told reporters.Wiley Bridgeman, now 60, quietly thanked the judge and attorneys in the courthouse as his case was dismissed. He had once been less than three weeks away from execution, rescued when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s previous capital punishment law in 1978.The case was a major victory for the Ohio Innocence Project, which coordinated much of the investigation into the exonerating evidence and whose staff attorney, Brian Howe, represented Jackson. Terry Gilbert and David Mills, who together represent the brothers Bridgeman and Ajamu, worked with the Innocence Project during the case.“It’s been years in the making,” Howe told ABC News. “Literally years of work, witness interviews, tracking people down -- all that culminated on Tuesday when the state withdrew its case.”The first domino on the path to exoneration fell in 2011, when an investigation by reporter Kyle Swenson in The Cleveland Scene, an alternative weekly magazine, cast doubt on the 1975 convictions. Later, the Ohio Innocence Project took Jackson’s case and began investigating.“Kyle Swenson did some great investigative journalism into the case before anyone had really heard about it, way before Ed Vernon had recanted his testimony,” Howe said. “Kyle’s article was the first thing I read when I took on this case, and that really compelled me to spend those extra nights and weekends digging into it.”Vernon was sick and in the hospital, wracked with anxiety, when his minister convinced him to come clean. Later, the Innocence Project obtained a signed affidavit in which Vernon forswore the statements he made as a boy.Last week, Vernon, now a 52-year-old man, took to the stand to give stunning, emotional testimony recanting his childhood statements.“He was a wreck,” McMonagle, the judge who presided over Jackson’s trial, told ABC News.“Eddie Vernon broke down on the stand frequently during testimony,” said Gilbert. “He talked about how his life was affected by the stress, the anguish, because for all these years he was afraid that if he came forward with the truth, then he would go to prison.”Vernon testified that he had been on a school bus when he heard the gunshot that killed Franks. As a 12-year-old, he passed on rumors he had heard to the police incriminating Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers. When he tried to back out of his account at a police lineup, he testified that officers intimidated him into giving false testimony, yelling at him and banging on a table.“He was a kid,” Gilbert told ABC News. “He hadn’t seen them do it. The police told him that he’d go to jail, that they’d send his mother to jail if he backed out, and he was a scared kid.”Vernon’s testimony made a powerful impression on the hearing.Judge McMonagle said, “One of the prosecutors said later that hearing all the evidence and the recanted testimony made her physically sick, that she felt terrible.”After the hearing, the prosecutors totally conceded, Gilbert told ABC News.“Everybody’s human," Gilbert said, "and when you hear this story and hear this man testify, it’s like something you can’t believe.”On Tuesday, the prosecution withdrew its case after Jackson testified before the hearing.“We’ve had a lot of emotion in this case this week,” Howe told ABC News. “Ricky spoke on Tuesday, talking about being sentenced to death as a teenager, and we could barely get through the testimony.”By Friday, the case’s dismissal was a formality. By noon, both Jackson and Bridgeman walked away as free men.In 1975, Judge McMonagle’s father, George, was the judge who presided over the case when it was first tried. At 9 a.m., he dismissed the case first heard by his father almost 40 years ago.“It means something when I think about it, since he’s been gone for a while,” the younger McMonagle told ABC News of his father, who passed away in 2002. “I’m retiring at the end of the year myself, and this is certainly something I’ll remember.”Ajamu, previously Ronnie Bridgeman, was released on parole in 2003, but his case will soon be heard for dismissal, as well. Gilbert told ABC News that, although Ajamu's team could apply for the case to be dismissed remotely, Ajamu wanted his day in court.“Kwame wants to hear it from a judge,” he said. “He wants to hear it from a judge that he’s a free man.”Ajamu, who has a wife now, will temporarily host his brother Bridgeman and Jackson while they sort out their new lives as free men.“After all this time, they don’t have a penny to their name except for the money they had in their pockets when they were jailed,” Howe said. “We’re going to help Ricky get a wardrobe, and we’re going to tackle some paperwork to get him a birth certificate, some documentation to get him ready to get a driver’s license.”Howe added that the Ohio Innocence Project had put together a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help Jackson get started on his new life out of prison.“He’s not bitter or angry,” Howe said. “He’s just really looking forward to getting on with his life. He’s excited about getting a job, driving a car. He’s just processing the facts of being a free man.”After the hearing, Jackson told reporters that he did not bear any resentment toward Vernon after those years of imprisonment.“He’s a grown man today,” Jackson said. “He was just a boy back then."Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

WWII Love Letters Reveal 3 Soldiers Vying for Same Woman's Heart

iStock/Thinkstock(RUTHERFORDTON, N.C.) -- They say true love knows no boundaries, and a collection of recently discovered World War II love letters between a soldier and the apple of his eye, a beauty whom he’d never even met, certainly proves that to be true.“Mama always said that she let him chase her, until she turned around caught him,” Jane Simmons, the wartime lovebirds’ daughter, told ABC News.Simmons and her brother, Larry Davis, who just recently suffered a fatal stroke, always knew their parents had something extraordinarily special.They were “very much still in love to the end,” Davis’ wife, Beverly, said of her in-laws’ 55-year marriage.But what it took to form that bond, however, was something even more extraordinary than their love itself—a story which the soldier’s children are only just now learning.“That was what was surprising. Mama never said anything about them,” Simmons, 63, of Rutherfordton, North Carolina, explained of the antiqued stack of 18 handwritten love letters she’s just inherited.The letters were, for the most part, penned from her father, Teal Davis, while he was stationed in Burma in 1945, to her mother, Evangeline Poteat, a 22-year-old factory worker in North Carolina. At the time of their writing, the two had never even met. Despite being separated by oceans, miles and war however, Davis knew Poteat would someday be his bride."It rains pennies from heaven,” he wrote of how it feels to receive a letter from Poteat.“I'll be looking forward to the day when I can meet you in person, but for now a letter will do,” he said in another. “Be good, have fun this summer and write soon.”The lovestruck couple was initially “introduced” by Poteat’s roommate at Appalachian State Teachers College at the time, Sarah Kate Davis, who suggested she write to her brother, Teal, while he was deployed in Burma.Poteat did, and the two fell hard and fast.But apparently Teal, an Army Air Force crew chief, wasn’t the only one who found Poteat irresistible.“She was a beautiful woman with this auburn hair,” said Beverly. “She was the real deal.”There were two other soldiers, both young men stationed in California, who were also writing to her—one of whom was even asking for her hand in marriage."I know that you think that I am crazy for asking you so many times," he writes from Camp Cooke. "Did you think the ring idea is OK with you, or is it? I love you."The other soldier, a former beau from high school, separately wrote, “We used to really have a swell time until Uncle Sam nabbed me.”Unfortunately for them though, Teal was the one who ultimately nabbed her.All of the men’s love stories are chronicled in a complete stack of 18 love letters that the couple’s children, Simmons and Davis, came to unexpectedly inherit, all thanks to a reporter with the local paper, The Charlotte Observer.“It’s odd to see that, but it’s wonderful too,” Simmons said of reading the 70-year-old letters from her mother’s other admirers.Over time, Poteat’s World War II love letters somehow ended up in Oregon and were being sold by a historical collector on Ebay when Gary Schwab, a reporter with the Charlotte Observer found them, outbid everyone to purchase them, and tracked down the relatives to ensure they were safely returned home.“We were just shocked,” Simmons said of the unexpected discovery. “Mama was good at keeping stuff. I just really don’t know how in the world they got to Oregon.”“We can’t figure that out,” Beverly, Davis’ wife, added. “We’d really like to know how that happened.”The family is thrilled to have the letters in their possession now— a treasure they never even knew was missing.“It’s a keepsake to me that I never knew I had,” said Simmons. “It just means the world to me. I miss my mom and daddy every day. It’s been quite a few years since they passed and this just brought them back.”Beverly knows her husband felt the same way, and knows his receiving these special letters just weeks before his sudden death was one of the best gifts he could have ever gotten.And as for their mother’s additional admirers, “She wound up with the one she was supposed to have,” said Simmons.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Phone Scams: Why People Keep Falling for the Oldest Scam in the Book

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was 11 o’clock in the morning when Luann and Betty Ann’s world was shattered with a single phone call.“He says, ‘Do you have a daughter or a son?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I have a daughter,’” Luann said. “And he said, ‘Oh boy, there’s been a terrible accident. Four cars at an intersection. Everyone is unconscious.’”“He said, ‘What kind of car does she have?’ And I said, ‘It’s a Kia,’” she continued. “And he said, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a Kia here. She’s unconscious.’”The two women, who asked that their full names not be used, didn’t know who the man on the phone was but, terrified for their daughter’s life, they jumped into their own car and headed out to look for her, staying on the phone with the stranger.“I am thinking my daughter is laying on a highway somewhere unconscious,” Betty Ann said. “And the scariest part was we didn’t even know where she was. They wouldn’t say exactly where she was.”But then, the story took an unexpected, and even more frightening, turn.“I was like, ‘You have to tell me exactly where you are and what the hell is going on now,’” Luann said. “And then his whole demeanor changed and he was like, ‘Now you wait a minute. ... We have her, at gunpoint, and we are going to shoot her if you don’t give me $1,700.’”But what Luann and Betty Ann didn't know at the time was that they were on the receiving end of a phone scam, where the latest tactic in an otherwise low-tech crime is for con artists to claim to have kidnapped a loved one and are holding them for ransom.“I never felt terror before in my life,” Luann said. “This was absolute terror, having your child’s life in your hands.”The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 25 million Americans lose in excess of $2.5 billion to fraud each year, and phone scams, which account for a big chunk of that, have been surprisingly successful for decades. Past scams have included asking people to invest in an oil company, gas deal or gold coins. Con artists have also been known to pose as lottery officials or IRS agents calling about taxes owed. Whatever the pitch, phone scammers are like top-notch salespeople, and they are extremely effective.“These are dangerous people you are on the phone with,” said Jimmy, a convicted con artist. “Make no bones about it. I am a dangerous person. On the telephone if I chose to be fraudulent in my practices there is nothing that is going to stop me taking lots of money from people, period.”Choosing their next victim, what Jimmy called “the crush” or “the kill,” is emotionally driven. “It’s not logic,” he said. “If you apply logic to this concept it's 'No, I am not going to send you my hard earned money. I don’t even know who you are.'”Doug Shadel, a former fraud investigator and current Senior State Director for AARP in Washington state, has interviewed Jimmy and more than a dozen con artists like him, trying to understand how they are able to pull off a scam most people think they would never fall for. The AARP runs their own Fraud Watch Network where they track the latest scams.“We always ask them the same question: ‘What is your central strategy for defrauding people?’” Shadel said. “They all say the same thing, ‘get them under the ether.’ ... a heightened emotional state where you are no longer thinking rationally but you are reacting emotionally.”A heightened emotional state, such as the con artist claiming he has kidnapped someone’s child.“This explains why so many people who are doctors, lawyers, professors of chemistry have actually fallen for this stuff,” Shadel said. “How could somebody that smart fall for this? It’s not their intellect that’s engaged when they make that decision. It’s the emotion.”Shadel said he has received piles of recordings from states attorney general investigations into phone scams, many filled with abusive and demeaning language, even threats.“Whenever I get tired and need some motivation I listen to tapes like this to remind me that there are thousands of people out there who are suffering in silence. They are afraid ... and people comply out of that fear,” Shadel said. “Part of our goal is to give people an opportunity to come forward, shine a light on these things so that law enforcement can do something about it and we can help each other.”But for law enforcement, tracking down scammers can be challenging. The New York Attorney General’s office is currently taking on the grandparent phone scam, where a grandparent gets a call from a scammer pretending to be a teenage grandchild in trouble.The Attorney General’s office is reaching out to the supposed victims -- the grandkids -- to try to get them to warn their families about phony phone calls that could come their way. Investigators say they are up against crooks who have no problem tugging at a person’s heartstrings to rip them off.Looking back on that day, Luann said she didn’t think there was anything she would have done differently.“When they do that to you they pull right at your emotions and you are raw. You are terrorized, and you will do anything,” she said.She and Betty Ann say they were lucky to be together when the supposed kidnapping call came in. While Luann was on the phone with the scammer, Betty Ann frantically tried to call their daughter.“At first I called and there was no answer. I called again and said, ‘Where are you?’” Betty Ann recalled. “And then finally I get back a text, ‘I’m in class. What’s wrong?’”“And then once I knew it was a scam I hung up,” Luann said.And they weren’t the only one terrorized that day. Their daughter, Maxine, was also panicked.“It killed me just to hear -- that’s my mom, I love and care for her, she’s my life. ... To hear her voice like that, I got upset and then I got angry,” she said. “I was like who was doing this to my mother? Who are you to do this to my mother. This is my mother, my family. You don’t do that.”They filed a police report, but doubt the callers will ever be caught, which is why, in addition to not using their full names, they asked that their location not be revealed either.“I have heard of scams. I’ve never heard of this,” Betty Ann said. “The way they just got the details and got the info and used it against me, that’s exactly what they did, they got the info they needed and used it against me.”Investigators warn even if you keep your doors locked and passwords secured, crooks want into your life, and sometimes, they’re just a phone call away.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Military Mom's 'Pride Packages' Spread Love and Support Overseas

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One mother’s care packages to her soldier son have now turned into gifts of love for untold numbers in war zones.Evan Garlick joined the Marines when he was 17. He was eventually deployed to Iraq, a combat zone filled with chaos and pain.He was injured by a roadside bomb in December 2006, but refused medical attention so a more seriously injured fellow Marine would be taken care of.“I could feel the shrapnel and I remember taking a piece out,” Garlick, now living in Pelham, Georgia, told ABC News. “They said the lieutenant was down and we ran to him.”Garlick earned a Purple Heart and both Marines recovered from their injuries. This wasn’t the first time Garlick had displayed such selflessness.In his first deployment in 2005, his mother, Pat Garlick, would send him letters every single day, along with a weekly care package. His nickname around the base quickly turned into “post office.”One day, however, Garlick noticed a buddy in his barracks wasn’t getting any mail at all.“He was disappointed because everyone had received mail,” Garlick said. “You can see the look on his face of disappointment when the mail came. And when it was all gone, he hadn’t received anything yet.”So he put in a special request with his mom: To send his empty-handed friend a package and “keep it a secret.”“He goes, ‘Mom, can you send him a package?’” Garlick’s mom recalled. “’But don’t tell him where it came from. I don’t want him to know.’”The package was received and something magnificent began. Garlick and his mother’s act of kindness has now turned into an assembly line of love. More than 3,000 care packages filled with snacks, goodies and magazines, all packed into personalized boxes they’ve dubbed “Pride Packages.”Pat Garlick works with, a website that helps facilitate sending items to soldiers overseas, to get the names and addresses for where to send her “Pride Packages.”“My mission is to make sure those in need receive something from back home,” she said.Garlick and her team of volunteers in Shelbyville, Illinois, have sent more than 3,000 packages since her son’s deployment.ABC News found one of the recipients of Garlick's care packages, Navy Lt. Cheryl Collins.Collins, who was stationed in Afghanistan, had a message for Garlick."I am so thankful for you and what you mean to so many people," Collins said.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ferguson 'On Edge' and Worried, Brown Family Lawyer Says

Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- The city of Ferguson is "nervous, on edge, scared" as they await the grand jury's decision on the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown, a lawyer for the Brown family and protest leaders said on Friday."The city is really in a panic at this moment," attorney Anthony Gray said in a press conference Friday afternoon.Federal, state and county officials have been ramping up their readiness in case there is a fresh wave of angry and at times violent protests over the jury's decision. Protesters have been demanding that Police Officer Darren Wilson be charged with murder for the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown.Gray said that he has received "numerous calls, emails and text messages expressing concern from members of our community about their safety," including from residents who specifically say they are worried about how they are going to get necessary medication.Many stores have boarded up their windows for fear of destructive protesters. The manager of Beauty Town Plus, a salon on West Florissant Avenue, where much of the protests centered during the summer, told ABC News that they decided to board up because their windows were broken three times following Brown’s death.Law enforcement have taken the threat of violence seriously as well as two federal officials confirmed to ABC News that more than 100 FBI personnel are being sent to the St. Louis area to join those already in the area and opened an intelligence center to head up operations.There were protests in the area both Wednesday and Thursday, though with less than half a dozen arrests at each, they were far smaller than those held this summer.“It’s a dicey situation right now,” Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told ABC News.“We’re preparing for the worst, but we’re really hoping that the leadership… understands the property rights of others and the value of human life,” he said.County Executive Charlie Dooley was more optimistic."I do not expect the worst and I said it then and I say it now. I expect the best in people. I am encouraged by conversations between law enforcement and protest groups," Dooley said.Both Attorney General Eric Holder and Michael Brown Sr., the slain teenager’s father, have released videos urging protesters to remain peaceful when the grand jury’s decision is handed down."It’s hard to sleep when you've got this looming," Jackson said.One business owner, Charles Davis, has remained optimistic about the possible protests and refused to take any extra precautions to fend off looters.Davis, who bought Ferguson Burger Bar & More the day before Brown was killed, said that he has received support from both locals and people across the country who have heard about his decision to stay open through any protests that come with the verdict.“I had a gentleman yesterday who drove from Memphis just to get a burger,” Davis told ABC News.“I’ve heard some things but that one brought me to tears,” he said.Davis said his restaurant will be open on Saturday but closed Sunday, as always.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- The FBI has sent about 100 agents to the St. Louis area to help deal with any problems that could arise from the grand jury decision in the police shooting of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown.In addition to the FBI, other federal agencies have also mobilized staffers to get to St. Louis on Friday, sources told ABC News.A decision by the grand jury is expected soon, but St. Louis authorities said on Friday that the grand jury is still meeting. The panel will decide whether or not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, who was unarmed, on Aug. 9.Authorities are braced for a recurrence of angry protests that turned violent at times during the summer.The FBI has ordered its Ferguson contingent to mobilize and arrive in the St. Louis area on Friday. In addition to FBI personnel already in the St. Louis area, about 100 more are being dispatched, law enforcement sources said. Additional FBI personnel have been put on alert so that they could be called in as part of a second emergency wave if necessary, ABC News has learned.The FBI is opening up its special St. Louis intelligence center on Friday. This facility will be in constant contact with the Missouri and St. Louis County Emergency Operations Center.The FBI declined to comment.Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency earlier this week and activated the Missouri National Guard to help keep order if necessary.Michael Brown Sr., the father of the slain teen, issued a videotaped appeal this week for protesters to remain peaceful whatever the verdict.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Report Details Missed Opportunities to Treat Adam Lanza's Mental Illness

Kateleen Foy/Getty Images(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Adam Lanza's preoccupation with violence was evident early on but Connecticut's Office of the Child Advocate said it went "largely unaddressed."The office's new report on the Newtown school shooter, out Friday, found that the school system helped Lanza's mother appease him as he became socially withdrawn. The authors faulted Lanza's parents who "may not have understood the depth...of his disabilities."  The shootings, the authors said, were not inevitable but Lanza's severe state, preoccupation with violence and easy access to guns "proved a recipe for mass murder" at Sandy Hook Elementary School.Twenty-six people, including 20 children, died in the Dec. 14, 2012 incident.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Former Sheriff's Deputy Accused in Wife's 2012 Shooting Death

KMGH(DENVER) -- A former sheriff’s deputy in Colorado is in custody, accused of killing his wife nearly three years ago, a death that was originally ruled a suicide.Tom Fallis, 34, who now lives in Bloomington, Indiana, appeared in court Thursday for an extradition hearing. He will soon be moved to Colorado to formally face charges for the New Year’s 2012 murder of his wife Ashley Fallis, 28.According to a grand jury indictment, the husband “became irate” at the end of a New Year’s party, stormed into their master bedroom, grabbed a handgun and shot his wife. He is charged with two felony charges of murder.Tom Fallis’ attorney said the man is innocent.The husband called 911 to report his wife’s death. “My wife just shot herself in the head. Please help me! Please help me!” he told dispatchers at the time.Four different agencies initially agreed it was a suicide, police said.Dan Recht, an attorney for Ashley Fallis’ family, said her relatives could never accept that analysis.“They just knew their daughter, she was very happy, a young mother with three young children. And the idea that she would somehow decide to commit suicide, they would never accept it,” Recht said.As new witness testimony came to light, police reopened the investigation, leading to the grand jury that brought charges against Tom Fallis.Jenna Fox, Ashley’s mother, said she’s stunned by the arrest.“Shock, elation, sadnes …it encompasses every emotion you could have,” Fox said.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Why Adrian Peterson Says He 'Won't Ever Use a Switch Again'

Bob Levey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Running back Adrian Peterson says he has changed his perspective on child discipline after facing child abuse charges and an ongoing suspension from the NFL.“I won’t ever use a switch again,” he said in an interview published Thursday by USA Today, his first extensive comments since being charged with felony child abuse in September in Texas.“There’s different situations where a child needs to be disciplined as far as timeout, taking their toys away, making them take a nap. There’s so many different ways to discipline your child.”The six-time All-Pro was charged for using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son, leaving bruises and welts. He agreed to a plea deal with no jail time earlier this month, pleading no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault.Peterson’s bail terms prohibit him from having face-to-face contact with the boy, but Peterson said they recently spoke over the phone, their first conversation in five months.“I was like, ‘Hey buddy, how you doing?’” Peterson, 29, said, recounting the conversation to USA Today.“I’m doing OK,” the boy said.“I was like, ‘I love you.’”“He was like, ‘I love you too, Dad. Can I come over to your house?’”Peterson’s latest comments mark a departure from his statements days after he was indicted. At the time, he said, “I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child.” Without that discipline, “I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets,” he said.Peterson acknowledged that leaving the Minnesota Vikings might be the best for both him and the team."I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there," he told USA Today. "But if there's word out that, hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I've given everything I had in me."The former NFL MVP is suspended by the league without pay, a punishment the NFL Players Association has appealed.Peterson disagrees with the sentiments of Commissioner Roger Goodell, who stated that Peterson failed to show “meaningful remorse” for his conduct."Ultimately, I know I'll have my opportunity to sit down with Roger face to face, and I'll be able to say a lot of the same things that I've said to you," Peterson told USA Today. "Don't say that I'm not remorseful, because in my statement, I showed that I was remorseful. I regretted everything that took place. I love my child, more than anyone could ever imagine."Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

FSU Gunman Myron May Sent Packages to Eight Friends

Myron May is seen in this undated handout photo. Courtesy Daunton Family(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Eight acquaintances of Myron May are said to be expecting packages in the mail sent before police say May opened fire on Florida State University’s campus.Joe Paul said he was a former student at the university with May, and the two reconnected while living in Houston. May sent a message alerting the acquaintances -- who evidently don’t know one another -- that they would receive packages, Paul told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.Paul contacted police, and has been advised to call local authorities when the package arrives.“What did he send everyone? Was it a manifesto? Was it a message? I don’t know. I think I’m just as curious as everyone else,” Paul said in the interview.May, 31, was identified by police as the shooter who opened fire at the Florida State University library early Thursday morning, wounding three people before police shot him to death. Authorities said they have no motive for May's rampage, other than to say that May was "in a state of crisis."May was a foster child who succeeded in becoming a lawyer, but he recently deteriorated to the point where his ex-girlfriend called police saying he was acting erratically and she feared for his life.His foster mother, Abigail Taunton, said she is shocked by May’s inexplicable actions."It has to be some mental illness going on that we were not aware," Taunton said.One of the students in the shooting was listed in critical condition Thursday, with two others suffering non-life-threatening injuries.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Michael Brown's Father Issues Plea for Calm in Wake of Grand Jury Decision

Scott Olson/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) — With the grand jury in the Michael Brown shooting case set to deliver a verdict at any time, the father of the slain teenager released a public service video Thursday urging supporters to protest peacefully regardless of the decision.In anticipation that the grand jury might not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the racially charged case, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already issued a state of emergency, with law enforcement authorities ready in anticipation of civil unrest that could turn violent.Michael Brown Sr.’s statement begins by thanking supporters “for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation -- but hurting others or destroying property is not the answer.”Saying that he doesn’t want his son’s death to have been in vain, Brown asks that it instead leads “to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”Brown concludes his statement by asking everyone in the community and the nation at large to “work together to heal and to create lasting change for all people regardless of race.”Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said, “There's a time and place for civil unrest, and this apparently is the time and this is the place, but we do -- we do hope that people understand the property rights of others and the value of human life.”More ABC US news | ABC World NewsFollow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Secret Service Arrests Woman with Handgun Outside White House

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Secret Service agents arrested a woman with a holstered 9-millimeter handgun outside the White House Thursday night shortly after President Obama finished his announcement on immigration reform, according to federal law enforcement sources.Plainclothes agents noticed April Lenhart carrying the holstered weapon as she was on the north side of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue about 8:30 p.m., sources told ABC News. Uniformed agents who were alerted then arrested her.Lenhart, 23, of Michigan, was with a man who wasn't arrested, according to sources. Secret Service agents hoped to get a search warrant to look through her car, which was nearby. The incident came a day after R.J. Kapheim was arrested one block from the White House after a search of his car uncovered a rifle and ammunition.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

One Killed, 3 Injured in Oil Rig Explosion in Gulf of Mexico

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- One person was killed and three others were injured in an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).The explosion happened about 4 p.m. on board the rig stationed roughly 12 miles off the coast of New Orleans.The three injured workers were undergoing treatment in a medical facility on the rig, said the BSEE. Their conditions weren't immediately released.The oil rig is owned by Houston-based Fieldwood Energy, which reported the explosion. The rig wasn't in production at the time of the explosion, said the BSEE.The damage was limited to the explosion area and no pollution was reported.It was unclear what caused the explosion. The BSEE was investigating.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Why Cases Like Ferguson Are Hard for Feds to Prosecute

iStock/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- As soon as the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, announces its decision over whether to charge Police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting teenager Michael Brown, the public will almost certainly turn to the Justice Department and say: Your move, Mr. Attorney General.U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has vowed a "fair" and "thorough" investigation into the matter. But when pressed by ABC News in August, Holder seemed to acknowledge federal charges against Wilson are hardly guaranteed.What are the hurdles to bring civil rights charges against a police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager? Here are the top four challenges facing federal prosecutors, according to many of those who've prosecuted such cases:1. "The law"Under federal law, prosecutors need to prove two things: (1) it was "unreasonable" for Wilson to believe Brown posed a threat to him or the public, and (2) Wilson "willfully" deprived Brown of his constitutional rights."It's hard enough to prove willfulness to a jury when an officer beats a handcuffed suspect," said Rachel Harmon, a former Justice Department official who prosecuted several cases of excessive force by police. "It is much more difficult still when an officer uses force in an ongoing encounter with an unrestrained … suspect, even if that person is unarmed."Reasonableness comes "from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight," a federal judge told jurors in a 2010 case in New Orleans that ultimately acquitted an officer who fatally shot an unarmed man.That analysis must also consider "that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving," U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said then.Federal investigators will also be taking a close look at Wilson's background and any personal views that could have impacted his decision-making when he encountered Brown.In Ferguson, "even if [Wilson] was wrong about the amount of force that was necessary, if it was reasonable given all of what he was confronting at the time, then he can't be charged," said William Yeomans, who spent 26 years prosecuting civil rights cases at the Justice Department. 2. "Issues of proof"In cases of excessive force, "You may have issues of proof," and there are "certain limitations," the current federal prosecutor nominated to replace Holder said more than a decade ago."The real problem, from my perspective and the Justice Department's perspective, is that you are coming into an event after it has already occurred," Loretta Lynch said at a Fordham Law School roundtable in 2000, during her first stint as U.S. Attorney out of Brooklyn, N.Y.So prosecutors must often rely on eyewitness accounts. But such testimony "can be particularly problematic," Yeomans said, because eyewitnesses regularly have "very different" and inaccurate "pictures of what went on" during a chaotic incident.It's "absolutely" an issue in the Ferguson case, he said.In fact, at least one witness in Ferguson said Brown was shot "with his arms up in the air." But police claimed Brown was shot in the wake of a struggle for Wilson's gun and only after Brown started advancing toward Wilson.Because the police claim is "a plausible scenario," it's "hard for a jury to think about sending Officer Wilson to jail," Yeomans said.Brown family attorney Ben Crump, however, said, "People get arrested with far less evidence," insisting eyewitness testimony and "physical evidence" in the Ferguson case support charges against Wilson.3. "Strong presumption in favor of law enforcement""There is a strong presumption in favor of law enforcement" when deciding whether to charge a police officer, Yeomans said. "And it is a risky business to be too proactive in second-guessing their instantaneous choices."Both the law and juries give officers a lot of so-called "leeway" in that regard."Juries will give the police officers a significant benefit of the doubt," said Michael Magner, a former assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute the 2010 case in New Orleans.The lawyer for the Brown family, Benjamim Crump, said the high bar for indicting cops is even more pronounced at the local grand jury level."When you got the local prosecutor sitting in judgment of the local police, they normally don't indict," Crump told ABC News. The justice system "gives all the favor to the police officers and does nothing for the citizens."4. "Selective leaking" and "public opinion"Holder has condemned the "selective leak" of certain information in the case, saying it is "harmful to the process."Yeomans said the release of case information outside a grand jury room can have an impact on what happens inside the room.Yeomans took particular issue with the official release of a video showing someone identified as Brown allegedly stealing cigars from a convenience store minutes before the fatal encounter with Wilson.At the time, police insisted they "had to release" the video in the interest of transparency and because they received too many "freedom of information requests" from news outlets.Still, many leaks – such as details of secret witness interviews and autopsy reports – have been favorable to Wilson, and that "tends to affect the way that grand jurors approach the situation," Yeomans said.So what's next if federal charges don't happen?In addition to its criminal investigation of Wilson, the Justice Department has launched a separate civil probe into the entire Ferguson police department, trying to determine whether officers routinely engage in a "pattern or practice" of unlawful and discriminatory policing.Officers there allegedly have been more likely to stop and arrest a black driver than a white driver.Depending on what federal investigators conclude and how city officials respond, a federal court could demand Ferguson police make sweeping changes.Ferguson Mayor James Knowles told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his city has "nothing to hide" and will cooperate with the federal investigation, hoping to restore confidence in the police force."The real goal" of such probes "is to effect some sort of systemic change that will prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place," Lynch said in 2000 – long before much of the nation had even heard of Ferguson.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Behavior of Florida State University Shooter Had Alarmed Ex-GirlFriend

iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The man who shot three people at a Florida college early Thursday morning had been a success story -- a foster child who succeeded in becoming a lawyer -- but had recently deteriorated to the point where his ex-girlfriend called police saying he was acting erratically and she feared for his life.Myron May, 31, has been identified as the shooter who opened fire at the Florida State University library in Tallahassee before he was shot and killed by police.Police have no motive for May's rampage at the library, other than to say that May was "in a state of crisis."May was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1983 and moved to Florida as a teen, Tallahassee Police Department Police Chief Michael DeLeo said Thursday.Abigail and David Taunton told ABC News that he stayed with them in their foster home from the age of 13. They described him as being smart, friendly with their children and a cross country runner.He was awarded scholarships to school, they said, and he graduated from FSU in 2005. He went on to study law at Texas Tech Law School in 2009 and practiced law in both Texas and New Mexico.The Las Cruces District Attorney's office in Las Cruces, New Mexico, confirmed to ABC News that he had recently resigned from the office.There were signs of trouble in Las Cruces in two police reports this fall, one for suspicious circumstances and another for harassment."He advised me that over the past two weeks he was almost certain that there was [a] camera somewhere located in the interior of his residence," a September police report stated. "He believes he was being watched and observed. He stated that he can constantly hear voices coming through the walls specifically talking about actions he was doing."In October, police were called to his the home of his ex-girlfriend Danielle Nixon and she reported an incident where he had handed her a piece of his car that he claimed was a camera that police had put in his vehicle."According to [the woman], Myron has recently developed a severe mental disorder. Myron believes that the police are after him and are bugging his phone and car as well as placing cameras in his home and car," the police report stated.The woman said that she did not feel she needed a protective order against him, and she said that their 15 month relationship had ended as his mental disorder -- which she said was ADHD and was treated with medication -- had been worsening in recent weeks, leading to him quitting his job at the district attorney's office.She also told police that May had been taken to the Mesilla Valley Hospital for a mental health evaluation in late September.May's foster parents told ABC News that he returned to their home, two hours' drive from Tallahassee, unannounced three weeks ago and asked to stay with them. He even joined them on their annual fishing trip.David Taunton said that May did not appear to have any mental issues, saying that he was a happy, helpful person who wanted to come back to his hometown.In spite of that description, the last time the Taunton's heard from him was on Friday. When Abigail Taunton texted him at some point in the last two days and he responded: "I'm alright - having spiritual warfare."Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Florida State University Gunman Was Lawyer and Former Student

Brendan Sonnone/ Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The gunman who wounded three people at the Florida State University school library early on Thursday was a lawyer who had graduated from FSU, law enforcement said on Thursday.The alleged gunman was identified as Myron May, sources said.The gunman opened fire in FSU's Strozier Library, which was packed with students studying for end of term finals.An officer responding to the scene fatally wounded the suspected gunman after he fired at police, Tallahassee Police Department public information officer David Northway said at an early morning press conference.Two of the victims were taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, with one listed in critical condition, the other in stable condition. The third victim received a graze wound, police said.The university said on its Twitter account that it would remain open on Thursday, but it would not hold classes.The university sent an emergency alert to students, classifying the incident as a "dangerous situation" and telling students to seek shelter.University President John Thrasher released a statement following Thursday morning's shooting."The Florida State University community is extremely saddened by the shootings that took place early this morning at Strozier Library, in the very heart of campus, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all those who have been affected," Thrasher said in the statement."The three students who have been injured are our highest priority followed by the needs of our greater university community. We will do everything possible to assist with their recovery," he added.The shooting was an "isolated incident," Thrasher said.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Florida State University Student's Books Saved His Life

Brendan Sonnone/ Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- A student who was leaving the Florida State University library just as a shooter opened fire realized later that he had been the gunman's first target.Jason Derfuss, an FSU student, posted photos online showing a bullet that went through his backpack and was stopped only by a couple of books that he had just checked out for a research project."I didn't know this at the time, but the Shooter targeted me first," Derfuss wrote on his Facebook profile page. "The shot I heard behind me I did not feel, nor did it hit me at all. He was about 5 feet from me, but he hit my books. Books one minute earlier I had checked out of the library, books that should not have stopped the bullet. But they did."Derfuss, who identifies himself as the vice president of a media production company on his Twitter account, shared a series of photos of the damage that the bullet did to two books -- one titled Great Medieval Thinkers and the other with its title obscured."I learned this about 3 hours after it happened, I never thought to check my bag. I assumed I wasn't a target, I assumed I was fine. The truth is I was almost killed tonight and God intervened," he said.A Reddit user with the handle 'thejasond123' who posted the same photos wrote a similar account of the incident and added that he went to the police station and gave them his statement after discovering the bullet in his bag once he arrived home.Police who rushed to the library fatally shot the suspect but not until three students were injured. All three of the victims are expected to survive.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

What Will Happen to Snow Across US After Warmer Weekend

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many parts of the country have been pounded with snow and frigid cold this week, but don't worry: warmer weather is on the way.So what happens to all that snow? After another snowfall forecast for Thursday afternoon, some places near Buffalo, New York, could see up to nine feet of snow in total. That could lead to minor flooding when the snow starts to melt, made worse because of snow covering drains, according to ABC News weather experts.Ten inches of snow converts to about one inch of liquid water when it all melts. But what's slamming Buffalo isn't regular snow -- it's lake-effect snow, which is lighter and fluffier, and contains less water. So it would take between 20 and 30 inches of lake-effect snow for about one inch of liquid water.That's only if all of the snow melts, which experts don't expect will happen. By Sunday, the country warms up: afternoon temperatures will hit 51 degrees in New York, 81 degrees in Orlando, Florida, 50 degrees in Chicago and 67 degrees in Atlanta.But colder weather returns on Tuesday, and only part of the snow will have melted by then.Rain is also expected in the Buffalo area early next week, which could add to any flooding and also put extra pressure on rooftops already covered in snow.Some residents in upstate New York have been snowed in at home for more than two days -- or, even worse, stuck in their cars or at work. A 132-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway remains closed on Thursday as emergency workers furiously try to clear the snow.Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said on Wednesday that more than 5,000 tons of snow has already been removed from south Buffalo.And Buffalo Bills fans are also hard at work trying to shovel out the stadium in time for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. The team said they will need to clear 220,000 tons of snow in order for the game to happen. The Bills are paying fans $10 per hour to help shovel, plus free game tickets.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Beware of a Holiday Scam that Tricks You with a $100 Bill

WJLA(WASHINGTON) -- Authorities in Maryland have warned the public about a potential holiday scam that involves the temptation of a $100 bill left on a car windshield.The simple scheme works like this: Drivers walk to their parked cars and, after they get in the vehicle,  notice a $100 bill in the windshield. The driver exits the car with the door open to retrieve it, only to have a thief steal the vehicle.Karen Straughn, Maryland Assistant Attorney General – Consumer Protection, wants the public to be aware of it, as reported by ABC News affiliate WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C. Straughn said an unknown resident, during a public information safety session in Baltimore County, informed her of one incident, but Straughn said she has not seen a police report about it."But because it’s something of a frightening nature, if this happens to someone, we hope they will take the proper precautions," Straughn told ABC News.The Baltimore County Police Department’s auto theft task force told ABC News that while it has not seen the $100 bill scam at this time, “We have seen incidents where auto thieves will bump the back of someone's car in traffic. When everyone gets out of their cars, a thief will jump in the victim's car and drive off.” There are a couple of other scams involving drivers in parking lots that Straughn wants the public to be aware."With the fact that the holidays are coming up and more shopping, we believe this is something that could occur in this period of time," she said.According to Straughn, other schemes involve scammers approaching a car owner in a parking lot, asking if they can help repair a vehicle's "ding or dent" for an amount such as $200.After the scammer completes the job, one of two things can occur: The owner will drive away and realize days later the shoddy job, such as peeling paint."They drive away and you can’t catch them," Straughn said. "This is something that’s more common in our [suburban] area, particularly with holiday shopping."In other cases, the scammer will dispute the agreed amount and demand a larger sum, such as $2,000."One scammer went as far as to drive the individual to the bank," she said, adding the incident was reported to the police and the thief was caught. Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

School Defends Principal in Controversial 'Gang Sign' Photo

WRIC(LAWRENCEVILLE, Va.) -- A Virginia high school is batting down accusations that its principal is flashing gang signs in a recent photo with students.The photo shows Brunswick High School principal Warren Bell making hand gestures, next to five students, all of whom are also gesturing with their hands.Bell wasn't making any inappropriate signs, and was actually trying to get the students, who were making a commotion in the restroom by taking the photos, to stop, Superintendent Dora Wynn said in a statement to ABC News."When the principal saw that the students were posing and making inappropriate gestures, he motioned for the students to stop what they were doing," Wynn said in the statement. "A student snapped a picture just as the principal was gesturing for the students to stop. That picture is construed by some as showing the principal was engaging in inappropriate conduct when, in reality, he was attempting to stop the students from continuing their inappropriate behavior."The photo has been circulating online, the school said. It's unclear where it came from.Some parents told ABC News affiliate WRIC-TV in Richmond they believe the principal showed poor judgment."I am really appalled," Shirley Penn, whose daughter attends the school, told the station. "Seeing is believing. He is in the picture and from what I can make out, he's making signs."Geonni Stockton, one of the students in the controversial photo, told WRIC the students didn't know the principal was in the photo until after it was taken. Stockton doesn't believe the principal meant any harm."We ain't no gang," he told the station. "We were just posing for the picture. It surprised me how much people saw it, how people took it, much views it got and stuff, how many people took it the wrong way."Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Coal King Don Blankenship to Appear in Court

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Coal boss Don Blankenship is set to make his first appearance in court Thursday as a defendant facing a raft of charges stemming from the 2010 coal mine blast that took 29 lives.Once a larger-than-life figure in Appalachia, whose iron-fisted leadership of a giant coal conglomerate made him both famous and feared, Blankenship now faces up to 31 years in prison on federal charges of conspiracy, fraud and making false statements.A federal grand jury returned the indictment against Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, last week alleging that leading up to the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010, Blankenship took short cuts on safety in order to maximize profits, including failing to properly ventilate the mine. Investigators believe a buildup of methane and coal dust caused the deadly blast.The 43-page indictment alleges that for years prior to the explosion, Blankenship “conspired to commit and cause routine, willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards” at the mine and “was part of a conspiracy to impede and hinder federal mine safety officials from carrying out their duties at Upper Big Branch by providing advance warning of federal mine safety inspection activities, so their underground operations could conceal and cover up safety violations that they routinely committed.”Prosecutors also allege he made false statements about safety practices to the Securities and Exchange Commission.The judge handling Blankenship’s case recently imposed a strict gag order, according to local reports, purportedly in hopes of protecting a potential jury pool from bias.The indictment came just months after Blankenship sat down with ABC News in April and said he was despised because he “does the right thing,” denying that he ever cut corners on safety matters. When asked if he believed he would be indicted, Blankenship chuckled and said, “No.”Shortly before the interview, a federal safety report on the Upper Big Branch disaster had concluded, “If basic safety measures had been in place...there would have been no loss of life at UBB [the Upper Big Branch mine].”Blankenship countered that the real fault rested with the federal mine safety officials he has now been accused of trying to deceive.“You know, you can't just take the side of the government, the government's people too,” he told ABC News. “They have their own failings and their own shortcomings. We need to get to the bottom of these safety issues and truly protect coal miners, rather than seeing if we can blacken someone's reputation or hurt somebody.”The consensus among the families of the victims, and of West Virginia’s political leaders, is that Blankenship bears the ultimate responsibility for America’s worst mining disaster since 1970.A large group of relatives of those killed in the mine told ABC News earlier this year that they were waiting patiently for their day in court. Many rallied outside the courthouse when his indictment was announced.“I believe that Don has blood on his hands and I believe that justice will be done. I’ve got to believe that,” said Sen. Joe Machin, D-W.Va., in an interview.The 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch may have cost Blankenship control of his company -- Massey was ultimately bought by Alpha Natural Resources in 2011, six months after Blankenship stepped down as CEO.In April of this year, as federal officials began to focus on his role in the Upper Big Branch explosion after he refused to participate in the official state and federal investigations, Blankenship embarked on a public relations offensive to promote a 50-minute film called Never Again which offered what he said was proof that the explosion was the result of an unexpected surge of natural gas into the mine shaft -- not the result of safety deficiencies.“No one ever did more for improving or trying to improve safety,” Blankenship told ABC News. He said he declined to meet with investigators because he did not believe they would treat him fairly.Families of the victims told ABC News they considered the movie a public relations stunt aimed at influencing potential jurors who would one day hear the case against him.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Buffalo, NY, Buried in Snow, Could Get Another Three Feet Thursday

iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- Buffalo, New York, generally averages about eight feet of snow every winter. By the end of the day Thursday, it could eclipse that mark in just three days. And winter is still a month off.Governor Andrew Cuomo got a first-hand look at all the white stuff that has paralyzed much of the city due to the much talked about lake effect, which causes snow to come down faster, thicker and harder than in other areas due to cold air picking up moisture from Lake Erie.Cuomo admitted, "This is a historic event. When all is said and done, this snowstorm will break all sorts of records, and that's saying something in Buffalo.”Meanwhile, the governor has called in more than 200 National Guardsmen to remove snow, direct traffic and rescue the hundreds of stranded people from area highways.Meteorologists are predicting that Buffalo, which got five feet Tuesday, could get at least another three feet Thursday in a second round of snowfall.To get an idea of how much of a burden the snow has become, it's estimated that the average Buffalonian has to shove 25 tons of it just to get out of their driveway.Meanwhile, it's uncertain whether the Buffalo Bills' game with the New York Jets can be played Sunday since the Bills' stadium is already buried under 220,000 tons of snow with more is forecast for Thursday. The Bills are offering local residents $10 an hour and tickets to a future game in exchange for helping shovel snow.On a more somber note, seven snow-related deaths have occurred in Western New York, some from people suffering heart attacks while shoveling.Follow @ABCNewsRadio !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio