Day: February 20, 2020

Mississippi man accused of killing 8 tears up during trial

MAGNOLIA, Miss. — Testimony from a Mississippi woman whose son and nephew were two of the eight victims killed in an early morning shooting in 2017 was so emotional that the man accused of killing them was in tears.

The Daily Leader reports that Shayla Edwards took the stand Wednesday and testified that Willie Cory Godbolt, a relative by marriage, had taken her son running through his neighbourhood.

“Mama, I learned how to breathe when you’re running,” Edwards said her 11-year-old son Austin excitedly told her a week before Godbolt allegedly shot him to death.

Days later, while at her sister’s house, Edwards would hold her son’s lifeless body to her chest and kiss him, rocking him and begging him to wake up.

She began to cry when shown the crime scene photos of Tiffany Blackwell’s living room that showed the bodies of Austin and Blackwell’s 18-year-old son Jordan.

Godbolt shook his head listening to Edward’s testimony, his face wet with tears while she talked about how Godbolt had been a part of their lives for decades and was a part of their church family, the Daily Leader reported.

Blackwell followed her sister on the stand, recounting a similar version of the night they left her home after Godbolt’s ex-wife, now Sheena May, called her for help after Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy William Durr, May’s mother Barbara Mitchell, her sister Toccara May and her aunt Brenda May were shot multiple times and killed. Married couple Ferral and Sheila Burrage were also fatally shot at a third location.

Blackwell testified that her nephew Caleb, Shayla Edward’s son, later called her to tell her the devastating news.

“He said, ‘Aunt Tiffany, Cory killed Jordan and Austin,’ “she said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Godbolt, 37. He has pleaded not guilty to four counts of capital murder, four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of armed robbery.

The killings began after Godbolt entered his in-laws’ home in Bogue Chitto and got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over the couple’s two children, a witness testified earlier in the trial.

Godbolt has remained in custody since his arrest on May 28, 2017, hours after the shootings that Memorial Day weekend.

Testimony is expected to continue next week.

The Associated Press

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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Debate night brawl: Bloomberg, Sanders attacked by rivals

LAS VEGAS (AP) — From the opening bell, Democratssavaged New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and raised pointed questions about Bernie Sanders’ take-no-prisoners politics during a contentious debate Wednesday night that threatened to further muddy the party’s urgent quest to defeat President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who was once a Republican, was forced to defend his record and past comments related to race, gender and hispersonal wealthin an occasionally rocky debate stage debut. Sanders, meanwhile, tried to beat back pointed questions about his embrace of democratic socialism and his health following a heart attack last year.

The ninth debate of this cycle featured the most aggressive sustained period of infighting in the Democrats’ yearlong search for a presidential nominee. The tension reflected growing anxiety among candidates and party leaders that the nomination fight could yield a candidate who will struggle to build a winning coalition in November to beat Trump.

The campaign is about to quickly intensify. Nevada votes on Saturday and South Carolina follows on February 29. More than a dozen states host Super Tuesday contests in less than two weeks with about one-third of the delegates needed to win the nomination at stake.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in a fight for survival and stood out with repeated attacks on Bloomberg. She sought to undermine him with core Democratic voters who are uncomfortable with his vast wealth, his offensive remarks about policing of minorities and demeaning comments about women, including those who worked at his company.


Takeaways from the Democratic debate

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Six Democratic presidential hopefuls met on the debate stage in Las Vegas, but it was the newcomer, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who received the most attention, and none of it positive. Here are some key takeaways from the debate.


Bloomberg was the object of scorn, ridicule and contempt. And that was just in the first five minutes of the debate.

With all candidates flashing heat, a measure of the urgency they feel to survive in what is becoming an increasingly bitter nomination fight, the attacks focused on Bloomberg were a clear measure of his perceived strength. He has spent more than $400 million so far on advertising that in turn has given him strong standing in state and national polls.

Sen. Bernie Sanders recalled Bloomberg’s support of stop-and-frisk policing targeting minorities. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recalled how Bloomberg had mocked women for being “horse-faced” and “fat” and compared him to Trump. Sen. Amy Klobuchar quipped that “I don’t think you look at Donald Trump and say I think we need someone richer in the White House.” Former Vice-President Joe Biden said Bloomberg condoned racist police practices, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said Bloomberg was trying to “buy out” the Democratic Party.


AP FACT CHECK: Dems’ debate flubs; Trump untruths at rally

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six Democratic presidential candidates sparred in a spirited debate in Las Vegas that included for the first time billionaire Mike Bloomberg as President Donald Trump held a rally in Phoenix.

A look at how some of their claims on Wednesday stack up with the facts:


MIKE BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York mayor: “What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of them out.”

THE FACTS: That’s a distortion of how stop and frisk declined. That happened because of a court order, not because Bloomberg learned that it was being overused.


Police: Suspect found dead after 9 killings in German city

HANAU, Germany (AP) — A man suspected of fatally shooting several people in the German city of Hanau was found dead at his home early Thursday, hours after the attacks in and outside two hookah lounges, police said.

Officers also found another body at the same address, according to a police tweet. No details were released on that person.

Police gave no details of the suspected gunman but said “there are currently no indications of further perpetrators.” They did not give details of his possible motive or how he died.

Police said that the number of dead in Wednesday evening’s shootings rose to nine, news agency dpa reported.

Earlier Thursday, police said that eight people were killed and around five wounded. They said a dark vehicle was spotted leaving the location of the first attack and another shooting was reported later at a second scene, about 2 1/2 kilometres (1 1/2 miles) away.


China’s new virus cases, deaths rise but increase is lower

BEIJING (AP) — New virus cases in China rose by just 394 from the previous day, with a rise in the death toll of 114, the government said Thursday, as health inspectors went door-to-door to find every infected person in the worst-hit city.

Mainland China has now reported 2,118 deaths and 74,576 total cases. While the overall spread of the virus has been slowing, the situation remains severe in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected in December. More than 80% of the country’s cases are in Hubei and 95% of the deaths, according to data from China’s National Health Commission.

The new daily figure is a notable drop from the 1,749 cases recorded the previous day.

Inspectors in protective suits went door-to-door Wednesday in Wuhan to try to find every infected person. “This must be taken seriously,” said Wang Zhonglin, the city’s newly minted Communist Party secretary.

Cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 60 million have been under lockdown since the Lunar New Year holiday last month, usually China’s busiest travel period. Authorities halted nearly all transportation and movement except for quarantine efforts, medical care, and delivery of food and basic necessities. “Wartime” measures were implemented in some places, with residents prevented from leaving their apartments.


Trump picks pardon requests from wealthy pals and GOP donors

WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s a common thread among the 11 felons who found favour with President Donald Trump this week — all who were pardoned or set free had advocates among the president’s wealthy friends and political allies.

In at least some cases, including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and ‘80s junk-bond king Michael Milken, Trump has personal relationships with those he granted clemency. In three others he drew on the recommendations of a Tennessee grandmother he’d previously granted clemency at the urging of reality-TV star Kim Kardashian West.

“I rely on recommendations, very importantly,” Trump said Tuesday as he announced his decisions.

But, as with other aspects of Trump’s presidency, the president has veered from institutional norms. Historically, those recommended for presidential pardons are vetted through a formal process in which their petitions are reviewed by a team of Justice Department lawyers. In those past cases, typically there has been either strong evidence of wrongful conviction or the offenders have expressed remorse for their crimes and spent decades making amends.

Tuesday’s announcement from the White House instead often sought to minimize the severity of the crimes that had been committed, and listed the names of GOP mega-donors, celebrities and Fox News personalities who had advocated for the felons to get a break.


Lawyer: Assange was offered US pardon if he cleared Russia

LONDON (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to claim during an extradition hearing that the Trump administration offered him a pardon if he agreed to say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, a lawyer for Assange said Wednesday.

Assange is being held at a British prison while fighting extradition to the United States on spying charges. His full court hearing is due to begin next week.

At a preliminary hearing held in London, lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said now-former Republican congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2017.

Fitzgerald said a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, recounted “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”

Responding to the the lawyer’s claims, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “This is absolutely and completely false.”


Plaintiffs’ attorneys take aim at Boy Scouts’ `dark history’

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Like millions of other Americans in the 1950s and ’60s, Duane Ruth-Heffelbower spent his formative years learning to tie knots, build campfires and pitch tents with the Boy Scouts, whose wholesome, God-fearing reputation was burnished by Normal Rockwell’s magazine-cover paintings of fresh-faced Scouts, brave, courteous and cheerful.

Though he’s no longer involved in Scouting, the 70-year-old Mennonite minister from Fresno, California, has followed the slow deterioration of the Boy Scouts of America from afar and cringes to think what this week’s bankruptcy filing over a blizzard of sex-abuse lawsuits might mean for an organization already grappling with a steep decline in membership.

“It’s really sad. I’m afraid that people are going to be more skeptical than they were once about the organization and will be more inclined to look for other alternatives to Scouting,” said Ruth-Heffelbower, who grew up in Kansas. “Theses days there are so many things pulling at kids.”

With its finances and its vaunted reputation for moral rectitude damaged by scandal, the Scouts resorted to Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday in hopes of pulling through the crisis by setting up a victims’ compensation fund for thousands of men who were molested as boys by Scout leaders over the decades.

The fund could top $1 billion, but to raise the money, the national organization could be forced to sell some of its real estate holdings, which include its headquarters in Irving, Texas, and a huge campground in New Mexico.


UN: Thousands fleeing Syrian offensive, kids dying in cold

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a Russian-backed Syrian offensive are being squeezed into ever smaller areas near Turkey’s border “under horrendous conditions” in freezing temperatures that are killing babies and young children, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Wednesday.

Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council that “the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe” in northwest Idlib province, which is the last major rebel stronghold, has “overwhelmed” efforts to provide aid.

He said nearly 900,000 people have been displaced since Dec. 1 when the government offensive began, more than 500,000 of them children.

“Many are on foot or on the backs of trucks in below-freezing temperatures, in the rain and snow,” Lowcock said. “They are moving into increasingly crowded areas they think will be safer. But in Idlib, nowhere is safe.”

Lowock, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said almost 50,000 people have taken shelter under trees and in open spaces. “I am getting daily reports of babies and other young children dying in the cold,” he added.


Label: Rapper Pop Smoke slain in Hollywood Hills shooting

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Pop Smoke, a rising Brooklyn rapper who had a breakout year of hit songs and albums that made some of the biggest names in hip-hop his fans and collaborators, was fatally shot during a break-in Wednesday at a Hollywood Hills home, his label said.

“We are devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of Pop Smoke,” said a statement from Republic Records, the label of the 20-year-old whose legal name was Bashar Barakah Jackson. “Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together.”

Los Angeles police did not immediately confirm the identification and have not announced any arrests.

Police officers found a victim shortly before 5 a.m. after responding to a 911 call from someone who reported intruders, including one armed with a handgun, were breaking in, police Capt. Steve Lurie said.

Public listings show that the home is owned by Edwin Arroyave and his wife Teddi Mellencamp, daughter ofRock & Roll Hall-of-FamerJohn Mellencamp and a star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

The Associated Press

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US man charged in death of Chinese wife despite no body

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The American husband of a Chinese woman who has been missing since October was charged Wednesday in her death, even though her body hasn’t been found.

Joseph Elledge, of Columbia, Missouri, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Mengqi Ji, according to court records.

Elledge, who quickly was named as the prime suspect in her disappearance, was already charged with child endangerment and abuse of a child. Prosecutors say Elledge separated his wife from their 1-year-old daughter and that the separation created “a substantial risk” to the girl. Her maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents share custody.

Amy Salladay, the attorney for Ji’s family, said the girl turned 1 just days before her mother went missing and that she was still being breastfed at the time.

Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight described Elledge as a “jealous, controlling, manipulative psychopath,” during a November hearing.

In an audio recording that was played during that hearing, Elledge can be heard telling his wife “I don’t like being with you,” ”I’m eager to end it” and “I will bury the earth under you.” Ji is heard arguing with her husband, who raises his voice several times. At one point, he tells her, “I know you want me to hit you,” and, “This, it’s not abusive.”

A Columbia police detective wrote in the probable cause affidavit filed in the child abuse case that Elledge took a long drive through unfamiliar remote areas of central Missouri before reporting his wife missing.

Authorities have been searching for Ji’s body in the Lamine River near Boonville.

Ji, whom law enforcement initially identified as Mengqi Ji Elledge, received a master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Missouri in December 2014. She previously attended the East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai.

Elledge was studying at the University of Missouri when he was arrested last year.

The Associated Press

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These protestors know more about Indigenous issues than you think

It doesn’t feel like an old-school, hard-core protest. At the centre of the intersection of Cambie Street and West Broadway a hundred or so people have gathered on a starless Vancouver night. There’s a crackling fire and the sound of drums reverberating through the quartered-off roads. A large marquee has been erected, covering a heaping pile of blankets, Tim Hortons coffee packs, boxes of pizza. People chat and share food, sitting on pieces of cardboard or collapsible chairs brought from home, their bodies moving to the beat.

If it weren’t for the location—one of the busiest crossroads on the city’s west side—and the lights from police cars flashing from every direction, the crowd on this day, Feb. 11, could easily be mistaken for a folk festival audience. But attendees have come to protest the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline route through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory—the fifth such demonstration in the city in a week.

The action is led by 19-year-old Saskia Burdick, a student at the Native Education College in East Vancouver. A member of the Heiltsuk Nation on B.C.’s central coast, Burdick says the decision to set up at this particular intersection was impromptu. Her group originally planned to occupy the offices of George Heyman, B.C.’s minister of climate strategy. “I expected about four people to come, but the word got out,” she marvels. “There was maybe about 40 when I showed up, and we had enough people to take an intersection. So we marched from George Heyman’s office to here.” Burdick, at this point, has already been on site for over 10 hours and, like many others, is planning to stay the night.

RELATED: Justin Trudeau’s speech in response to anti-pipeline blockades: full transcript

It’s been easy given the festive atmosphere at demonstrations like this to dismiss the participants as ill-informed dilettantes with scant knowledge of the issues at stake. More than a few have. Andrew Scheer tapped into that suspicion last week with remarks depicting supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs as hobbyists with too much time on their hands. “These protestors, these activists, may have the luxury of spending days at a time at a blockade,” the Conservative leader said, “but they need to check their privilege.” Similar complaints buzzed through social media, some portraying the protestors as environmental activists exploiting a chance at publicity.

But conversations with those at the centre of the Vancouver events suggests a greater depth of knowledge of the dispute than critics suggest. “In the media coverage thus far, the major outlets have been calling what’s going on a ‘pipeline protest,’” says 25-year-old Kellan Jackson, one of the protestors. “While the action is specifically asking that the Coastal GasLink project not go through, the reason for that is because we are acting in accordance with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

“It’s a movement for Indigenous sovereignty and for respect of Indigenous title. So we’re acting as allies and accomplices in land protection, we’re not protesting a pipeline.”

Demonstrator Krystal Paraboo, 30, resents the inference that “we’re just little young, millennial, hippy activist groups—emphasis on the millennial part.” The implication, she adds, is that “we have nothing better to than complain about the world. We’re not bad people for caring about human rights.”

The priorities of Paraboo and Jackson turn out to be fairly typical of the surrounding activists. While many acknowledge that environmental factors played a part in getting them out on the street, the primary reason for their support, they say, is solidarity with the hereditary chiefs asserting jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en territory, versus the elected band councils who back the project but derive their authority from the long-criticized Indian Act.

Some point to the seminal Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada decision of 1997, in which the hereditary chiefs petitioned for Aboriginal title to territory outside their reserves, with partial success. (Their grounds for title based on oral histories were recognized, though the limits of their traditional territory have yet to be defined.) This distinction goes to the heart of the most contentious part of the issue: while eight out of nine hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs refused to sign off on the pipeline (one remained neutral), all 20 elected First Nations councils along the route did. That was the presumptive green light for the project, since theirs is the system of Indigenous governance recognized under B.C. law.

RELATED: The Wet’suwet’en are more united than pipeline backers want you to think

But for some activists, the belief that Coastal GasLink and the government are overriding the inherent Indigenous rights to unceded territory demands public attention—even if getting it requires disrupting daily life. “I feel like today I was hearing a lot of: ‘Well sure, OK you don’t agree with what’s happening but this isn’t the right way to protest, you shouldn’t be shutting down the economy.’ But people are using that rhetoric [of economic interference] on purpose because that’s what makes the government listen,” says social worker, Linden Lalonde, 33. “I think that supporting Indigenous efforts for sovereignty and governance are ways forward.”

And the growing awareness of such distinctions is a victory of sorts for Indigenous activists, who are increasingly critical of the First Nations governance system recognized by Ottawa and the provinces.

Sara Brooke Cadeau, 48, an Anishinaabe trauma therapy worker, describes the elected councils as “INAC boys,” referring to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (formerly the Department of Indian Affairs, the ministry created to administer and enforce the Indian Act, colonial legislation passed by the Canadian government in 1879 that included assimilationist policies intended to terminate cultural, social, and political distinctiveness of Indigenous peoples).

“Why are we still wondering why INAC chiefs sign off the rights of their own people’s land for seven generations? INAC is set up to divide, conquer and control the people,” says Cadeau, who is quick to caution against painting all council members with the same broad strokes: “I have friends and family that work as chief and council and do a really good job. They’re hard working, and they have the hearts of their people.”

RELATED: Can Jody Wilson-Raybould carry an olive branch?

But, she adds, “when we look at it from a bureaucratic and holistic point of view, this is not a natural system; this is not a system of checks-and-balances.”

An 81-year-old former teacher from the Heiltsuk Nation, who asks that her name not be used, adds historical perspective. “I think the government knows exactly what they’re doing,” she says. “By talking to each village instead of having us get together to talk about this and be a unified voice. That’s been their motive for a long time.”

Just after midnight, a speaker with a megaphone beckons everyone to circle around. She asks that all attendees move to the perimeters of the blockade, in order to better hold the intersection, and requests that participants refrain from escalation and care for one another. Another speaker calls out for volunteers to look after the elders. Sharpies pass from person to person and people scrawl the number of a lawyer on their wrist—protection in the event that an injunction is issued and they’re arrested.

The remaining crowd is a mix of young and old, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Slowly, supporters move to the crosswalks, unscroll their makeshift sleeping mats, and zip up their coats, settling in for the night. “We’re all in the same canoe now. And that canoe is going to f–king capsize,” says Cadeau. “So get in the canoe, get your paddles and come on to the next blockade. Talk to us, and understand that we’re not here for your jobs, we’re not here to get retribution. We’re here for justice.”


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