AP News in Brief 08-09-18

  • Brock Turner leaves the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2016. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group via AP, File)

Court upholds Turner’s sex assault conviction

SAN FRANCISCO — An appeals court on Wednesday rejected a former Stanford University student’s bid for a new trial and upheld his sexual assault and attempted rape convictions.

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The three-judge panel of the 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose ruled Wednesday there was “substantial evidence” that Brock Turner received a fair trial.

In 2016, a jury convicted Turner of sexually assaulting an intoxicated and unconscious woman outside an on-campus fraternity party.

The case got national attention after the victim’s powerful statement, which she read in court before Turner was sentenced, was shared widely online.

She recounted the assault, her treatment by investigators and the ordeal of facing questions about her sexual activity and drinking habits. It quickly went viral.

“Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers,” she wrote. “This was a game of strategy, as if I could be tricked out of my own worth.”

Judge Aaron Persky rejected a prosecutor’s demand for a lengthy prison term and instead sentenced Turner to six months in jail. He was released from jail in September 2016 after serving three months.

Persky’s sentence sparked nationwide outrage by those who felt it too lenient, and voters recalled Persky in June.

The sentence was not part of the appeal and the judges didn’t address it.

US to impose sanctions on Russia over chemical attack

WASHINGTON — The United States announced Wednesday it will impose new sanctions on Russia for illegally using a chemical weapon in an attempt to kill a former spy and his daughter in Britain earlier this year.

The new sanctions, to be imposed later this month, come despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, and his harsh criticism of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The State Department said the U.S. this week made the determination that Russia had used the Novichok nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, and that sanctions would follow. It said Congress is being notified of the Aug. 6 determination and that the sanctions would take effect on or around Aug. 22, when the finding is to be published in the Federal Register.

Those sanctions will include the presumed denial of export licenses for Russia to purchase many items with national security implications, according to a senior State Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to do so by name.

The U.S. made a similar determination in February when it found that North Korea used a chemical weapon to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2017.

Man at compound accused of training kids for school attacks

TAOS, N.M. — A father arrested at a ramshackle New Mexico compound where 11 hungry children were found living in filth was training youngsters to commit school shootings, prosecutors said in court documents obtained Wednesday.

The allegations against Siraj Ibn Wahhaj came to light as authorities awaited word on whether human remains discovered at the site were those of his missing son, who is severely disabled and went missing in December in Jonesboro, Georgia, near Atlanta.

From wire sources

FromThe documents say Wahhaj was conducting weapons training with assault rifles at the compound on the outskirts of Amalia, a tiny town near the Colorado border marked by scattered homes and sagebrush.

“He poses a great danger to the children found on the property as well as a threat to the community as a whole due to the presence of firearms and his intent to use these firearms in a violent and illegal manner,” Prosecutor Timothy Hasson wrote in the court documents Wednesday.

Authorities raided the compound Friday in an investigation that has yielded a series of startling revelations — including the discovery of the 11 children in rags and word that Wahhaj wanted to perform an exorcism on his son because he thought the boy was possessed by the devil.

Republicans promote fear, not tax cuts, in key elections

WASHINGTON — There’s a border crisis in Pennsylvania. The radical left is surging in New Jersey. And Nancy Pelosi is a threat to New York.

Republican candidates in the nation’s premiere midterm battlegrounds have embraced a central message in their fight to maintain the House majority this fall — and it has little to do with the surging economy or the sweeping tax cuts that the GOP celebrated as a once-in-a-generation achievement just eight months ago.

Instead, as Republicans enter the final month of the primary season, they’re looking ahead to a general-election strategy of embracing anxiety as a tool to motivate voters. That was clear this week as the GOP’s closing message in an Ohio special election questioned Democrat Danny O’Connor’s connection to Pelosi, the House Democratic leader and preferred super villain for Republicans.

“We wish it got the pitch forks out and it doesn’t,” GOP ad maker Will Ritter said of the Republican tax cuts.

Some Republican strategists are frustrated the party isn’t focused on the tax law or the broader health of the economy in the run-up to Election Day. Others concede that in the Trump era, there’s no better motivator than fear of the other side, particularly the prospect of Pelosi returning to the speaker’s chair.

14,000 fight California fires, some from prisons or overseas

UKIAH, Calif. — Firefighters said for the first time Wednesday that they have made good progress battling the state’s largest-ever wildfire but didn’t expect to have it fully under control until September.

The blaze north of San Francisco has grown to the size of Los Angeles since it started two weeks ago, fueled by dry vegetation, high winds and rugged terrain that made it too dangerous for firefighters to directly attack the flames now spanning 470 square miles (1,217 square kilometers).

Crews, including inmates and firefighters from overseas, have managed to cut lines around half the fire to contain the flames, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The blaze about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of San Francisco around the resort region of Clear Lake has destroyed 116 homes and injured two firefighters.

Those lines have kept the southern edge of the fire from spreading into residential areas on the east side of the lake. But Cal Fire said the flames are out of control to the north, roaring into remote and unpopulated areas of thick forests and deep ravines as firefighters contend with record-setting temperatures.

California is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into the forests.

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Venezuela ruling party cracks down on opposition lawmakers

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s pro-government constitutional assembly stripped two opposition lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution on Wednesday, accusing them of having roles in a drone attack that authorities say was an attempt to kill socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The National Constituent Assembly voted unanimously to lift the protection for Julio Borges and Juan Requesens, who have seats in the opposition-controlled legislature. The move came after the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Borges, who lives in exile in Colombia’s capital, Bogota.

Requesens was arrested Tuesday, an action captured in a video circulating on social media. His party, Justice First, confirmed that the video showed Requesens.

Maduro has accused the two of being tied to a weekend incident in which two drones loaded with explosives exploded while he spoke at an outdoor military celebration.

Wednesday’s developments threaten to deepen Venezuela’s political crisis as opposition lawmakers accuse the government’s ruling party of using the alleged attack to clamp down on the opposition.

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Man upset by wife’s illness kills them both at hospital

VALHALLA, N.Y. — A man who said he wanted to end his ailing wife’s suffering shot her to death in her bed at a suburban New York hospital Wednesday and then killed himself, police said.

Richard DeLucia, 71, left a note at the couple’s condo indicating he was distraught about how his wife, Ann, 70, was suffering and wanted to put a stop to her ordeal, Westchester County police spokesman Kieran O’Leary said.

Then the husband went to his wife’s room at Westchester Medical Center with a licensed .38-caliber revolver, fired a single shot that killed his wife and then took his own life with another shot, police said. No one else was in the room at the time, authorities said.

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Ann DeLucia, whose medical condition wasn’t immediately revealed, was found in her bed and her husband was found on the floor of her fourth-floor room at the Valhalla hospital, about 35 miles north of Manhattan, police said.

Richard DeLucia had once owned a well-known Westchester catering hall, the Westchester Manor, called the Manor House during his time, current co-owner Enrico Mareschi said. Although DeLucia sold the venue to another owner roughly 15 years ago, he still came by occasionally until two to three years ago, Mareschi said.