American hikers sentenced to 8 years in prison for espionage and illegally entering Iran

Two American hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, both 28, have been sentenced to 8 years in prison by the Irani Revolutionary Court.  Specifically, they were sentenced to 5 years for espionage (cooperating with the American intelligence service) and three years for illegal entry into Iran.

The two, along with Sara Shourd, were arrested over two years ago while hiking in the scenic mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.  Shourd was released due to health reasons in September of 2010.  She posted a $500,000 bond and has never returned to the Iran court.  All three are University of California Berkeley graduates.

The hiker’s attorney, Masoud Shafiee, said he had hoped the men would be freed as a goodwill gesture during the Islamic holy Month of Ramadan.  Shafiee went on to say, “”I believe that they are innocent of the charges.”

Fattal and Bauer have 20 days to appeal their sentence.

Prosecutors investigating claims that hotel maid offered to hinder criminal prosecution in exchange for pay-off

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Federal Prosecutors are investigating claims that Kenneth Thompson, attorney for hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, offered to hinder the prosecution’s efforts in their sexual assault criminal proceedings in return for a pay-off from Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

It was also reported that prosecutors had requested that Thompson turn over any information about settlement negotiations.

If the report is true, this would create additional doubts about Diallo’s credibility.  A court hearing is set for Tuesday where prosecutors are expected to announce whether or not they intend to move forward on the case.

Man arrested in Kentucky for Australian collar bomb

Paul “Doug” Peters, 50, was arrested on Monday in La Grange, Kentucky at the home of his ex-wife by the FBI.  Peters is an Australian citizen who has lived in the United States.

Madeleine Pulver, 18, was alone in her family’s home on August 3rd studying for her high school exams in her bedroom when, according to an 11-page arrest complaint unsealed Tuesday, she saw an intruder walk in carrying a black aluminum baseball bat and wearing a striped, multi-colored balaclava over his head.  The man told her to sit down and no one would get hurt.  Pulver then sat on her bed and the intruder placed the bat and a backpack next to her.  She noticed he was holding a black box.  He then forced the box against her throat and looped a device similar to a bike chain around her neck.  The man locked the box into position around her neck and placed a lanyard and a plastic document sleeve around her neck.  It contained a hand-written note with demands and the email address and a USB digital storage device.  The handwritten note stated, “Powerful new technology plastic explosives are located inside the small black combination case delivered to you. The case is booby trapped. It can ONLY be opened safely, if you follow the instructions and comply with its terms and conditions.”  When the man started to walk away, Pulver asked him where he was going and he responded by saying, “Count to 200 … I’ll be back … if you move I can see you I’ll be right here.”  The man then left, taking the baseball bat and the backpack with him.

Pulver was then strapped to the device for 10 hours while an Australian bomb squad worked to free her.  Once the device was removed it was found to contain no explosives.

The arrest complaint explained how Australian authorities were able to tie Peters to the email address that he had left with his demands.  Australian authorities determined that a Gmail account linked to the incident was established on May 30, 2011, from an IP address linked to a Chicago airport.  Travel documents obtained from immigration authorities showed that Peters had been at the airport that same day.  The Gmail account was accessed three times on the afternoon of Aug. 3, almost two hours after the device was placed around the teenager’s neck.  The first access took place at 4:09 p.m. from an IP address registered to Kincumber Library.  Surveillance video captured a man matching the suspect’s description at the library around the same time.  The next two were at 5:25 p.m. and 5:51 p.m. on the same day, from an IP address registered to the Avoca Video Store stop in New South Wales.

The handwritten note stated, “Powerful new technology plastic explosives are located inside the small black combination case delivered to you. The case is booby trapped. It can ONLY be opened safely, if you follow the instructions and comply with its terms and conditions.”

Peters took a one way flight from Sydney to Chicago on August 8th and then continued  to Louisville from Chicagoon August 9th.

Peters was in U.S. District Court on Tuesday where he was ordered to be jailed pending an extradition hearing set for October 14th in Louisville.  He has been charged with kidnapping and breaking and entering in Australia.  It is not know whether or not Peters will fight the extradition to Australia.

Aruba judge holds American man for 16 days while authorities investigate the disappearance of his travel companion

Robyn Gardner, 35, was reported missing on August 2nd by her travel companion Gary Giordano, 50.  Giordano said that Gardner disappeared in the late afternoon while they were snorkeling off the southern tip of Aruba.  Giordano initially assisted the authorities with the investigation but was arrested on the 5th of August when he attempted to leave Aruba on a commercial flight bound for the United States.

After a hearing regarding the continued detention of Giordano, a Judge decided that prosecutors have enough evidence to continue to hold him.  The Judge stated that he agreed to the 16 day hold, “because of the seriousness of the case and of the importance of the investigation.”  Giordano will remain in jail for the next 16 days while Aruban authorities search for clues in the disappearance.  After the 16 days, prosecutors can ask that Giordano be held for 60 days while they prepare a case against him.  A judge would require more substantial evidence before granting that request.  After the 60 days, charges would have to be filed.

The case is strikingly similar to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway who disappeared on May 30, 2005 while vacationing in Aruba.  To date, Holloway has never been found.

Man sentenced to 1 year in prison for fondling woman on Continental flight

Man sentenced to 1 year in prison for fondling a sleeping passenger on a Continental Airlines flight

Ramesh Advani, 65, was sentenced to a year in prison followed by 5 years of supervised release and a $10,000 fine in the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey on Monday.

Advani was arrested in May of 2010 and plead guilty to a charge of Abusive Sexual Conduct in April of 2011.  He he was caught fondling a sleeping woman on a flight from Hong Kong to New Jersey.  He admitted to reaching under a blanket that was covering the woman seated next to him and sexually abusing her.  Two passengers, seated in the row behind the woman, also witnessed the assault and kicked the woman’s chair to wake her.  The woman alerted the flight’s crew members and Advani was arrested when the plane landed in Newark.

The case was prosecuted as a Federal crime because the incident occurred over international waters.

Prison Summer Camp – Kids connect with jailed fathers

By Lisa Flam – contributor

Summer camp behind bars: Program connects kids, incarcerated dads

Children and their fathers spends their days doing arts and crafts together at three prisons in the U.S.

When Sharon sent her son to summer camp, it changed his life.

That happens to a lot of kids. But 13-year-old Damar went to camp at a medium-security prison in Ohio where his father was serving time for a drug conviction. Being together strengthened their relationship and left him with a more positive view of his father, Sharon says.

“My son was a little more open to his dad,” says Sharon, 53. “They were able to bond and talk the father-son type of talk, because he really looked up to his father. He was disappointed the way things worked out but he still loved him.”

The program was so meaningful for the family that it inspired Sharon and her son, who asked that their full names not be used, to become counselors for the Father to Child Summer Camp which was started in 2000 by Hope House, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that works to keep kids connected to their incarcerated fathers.

“I saw the impact that it had on my son’s life and I just felt the need to give back,” said Sharon, who works at camp while on vacation from her contract job with the federal government.

Talking with his dad at prison about what happened to land him there was an eye-opener for Damar, now 24.

“It shined a light on a lot of things,” says Damar, who graduated from college last year and works in sales. “From then on, I thought the world isn’t perfect. I have to be ready for that.

“It inspired me to think deeper into life and think about the things I need to do to keep myself on the right path, and when I have my kids, I want to be around to enjoy them,” he said.

Damar, who became a counselor at 16, also wanted to help kids who are longing for their dads as he was, and he shares his story with campers.

“My experience helps me be a good counselor because I can relate,” he said. “It’s a thing of empathy.”

In its 12 years, Washington D.C.-based Hope House has hosted these camps all over the country. Currently, two camps are set up in Maryland and a third in North Carolina, in prisons that range from low to maximum security. Hope House’s offerings, the organization says, are the first of their kind. Kids ages 9 to 14 spend their days with their dads in the prison gym or visiting room. Together, they dance, drum and make murals and create things like a family crest. At night, the kids and counselors sleep at an off-site facility.

The camp was a comfortable place for Damar, who was at first ashamed of his father’s incarceration, Sharon said.

“Being around Hope House kids, everybody had one thing in common,” Sharon said. “You could feel free to be you.”

As the only current counselors who have children who attended camp, Sharon, and another counselor, Brenda, have a special understanding of what the children are going through.

For the past decade, these mom-counselors have seen the happiness in their charges and sometimes the hurt and fear as well. They know what it’s like for the campers who have felt shame or been teased at school.

Above all, they know that these children just want to be with their fathers and feel their love.

“These kids, they want to have a dad on the outside,” Sharon says. “They want to be loved. They want that completed family.”

Miss Sharon and Miss Brenda, as they are called, are moms-away-from-home for the campers, some making their first trip to a prison or going to see a man they barely know.

“We’ve been there,” Sharon says. “We’ve seen the hurt in our kids and we know these kids hurt and they long to be loved by their dad. I could relate to these children. I can give them a hug and kind of take them under my wing.

“I don’t try to explain their dad’s life to them,” she continues. “But I could just be there to answer questions for them and assure them that things are going to be OK.”

The two women “bring a lot to the conversation,” says Hope House founder Carol Fennelly.

“They both have successfully raised children who are dealing with the loss of a father to incarceration,” Fennelly says.

Since her daughter attended camp at about age 13, Brenda, whose last name is being withheld to protect her privacy, has become Hope House’s full-time family outreach coordinator, tracking down families whose fathers have applied for camp and inviting the kids to the camp at no cost.

She saw how the camp and other Hope House programs kept her daughter close with her father while he was in prison. Her daughter, now 25, is married with children and has a good relationship with her dad, Brenda says.

To help other families stay close, Brenda does whatever it takes, like banging on a family’s door, to get reluctant moms to allow their kids the chance at camp. And at camp, she’s there for the kids to lean on.

“I’m just a mother and that’s just my mother love,” says Brenda, 48. “I know what these babies go through because I’ve walked in these shoes. I traveled that road, so I know exactly where these babies need love.”

This article can be viewed on the MSNBC website here.

Judge rules Casey Anthony must return to Orlando and serve 1 year of probation

A week after  hearing arguments from both the prosecution and the defense and with input from the Department of Corrections, Judge Belvin Perry has ruled that Casey Anthony must return to Orlando on or before August 26th to begin serving one year of probation for her check fraud case.  Her probation will begin as soon as she reports.  In support of his order, Judge Perry wrote, “It is clear the court stated the defendant’s probation was to start once she was released from jail.”  He continued, “To permit the Defendant, whose counsel was well aware that the probation was to begin upon the Defendant’s release from jail, to avoid serving probation now, would take a lawfully imposed sentence and make it a mockery of justice.  This would allow a defendant to take advantage of a scrivener’s error and be rewarded. This is not the message the courts want to send to the public or defendants.”

Judge Perry did make an exception to Anthony’s probation.  He authorized the Department of Corrections to keep her address private while she is on probation.  In support of this he wrote, “This Court is very mindful that it is a high probability that there are many that would like to see physical harm visited upon the Defendant.”

The complete order may be seen here: Order denying defense’s motion to quash, vacate and set aside court’s order of probation.

Will the defense appeal this ruling or will Casey Anthony report as directed?  Stay tuned…

Man charged with DUI in Austrailia for driving a motorized beer cooler

An Australian man, Christopher Ian Petrie, 23, was arrested and charged with DUI and Driving without a license for driving a motorized beer cooler in a beachside resort town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in Australia.  The cooler was powered by a 50cc engine.

At his first hearing on the matter Petrie and his attorneys appeared before a magistrate and requested an adjournment of the case to allow them to research whether or not the cooler box could be considered as a motor vehicle.  The amused magistrate granted the request for adjournment but also inquired to Petrie about the cooler’s performance asking, “”How much beer can it hold?”  In response, Petrie told the magistrate that the cooler could hold “at least a couple of cartons.”

He will re-appear in court August 16.

Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs sentenced to life in prison for sexual assaults on young girls

By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY

Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.”

The 55-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stood quietly as the decision of the Texas jury was read today, the Associated Press reports.

Jeffs is the eighth FLDS man convicted since a raid of a ranch run by the church, which believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

Jeffs was convicted last week. During the trial, prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old.

“If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree,” Jeffs wrote in 2005, according to one of thousands of pages of notes seized along with the audio recordings from his Texas ranch.

Jeffs, who had been a fugitive for years before his capture in 2006, has more than 10,000 followers who consider Jeffs to be God’s spokesman on Earth.

FBI agent John Broadway testified that fathers who gave their young daughters to Jeffs were rewarded with young brides of their own. Girls who proved reluctant to have sex with Jeffs were sent away, according to excerpts from Jeffs’ journals that prosecutors showed to the jury.

Jeffs claimed that his religious rights were being violated, a view that the prosecution quickly dismissed.

“The evidence in this case shows that this isn’t a prosecution of a people,” prosecutor Eric Nichols said in his closing argument. “This is a prosecution to protect people.”

The full USA Today article may be seen here.

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