Archive for May 21st, 2010

5th Officer Charged in Katrina Shootings Cover-up

May 21, 2010

AP 

NEW ORLEANS – Another former police officer has been charged in connection with the cover-up of the deadly shootings of unarmed residents on a New Orleans bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten announced on Friday that 33-year-old Ignatius Hills was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and misprision of felony.

Police officers shot and killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the August 2005 storm.

Four other former New Orleans police officers have pleaded guilty to charges related to the cover-up, which authorities say included a planted gun, phony witness statements and falsified police reports.

Hills’ attorney, Robert Jenkins, did not return several phone calls.

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AP INVESTIGATION: Man Faked Way into Army as Noncommissioned Officer

May 21, 2010
By DANNY ROBBINS, Associated Press Writer Fri May 21, 10:47 am ET

FORT WORTH, Texas – A Texas man with no military experience tricked the Army into letting him enter a reserve unit as a noncommissioned officer earlier this year, a deception that placed an untrained soldier in a leadership position in a time of war, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Jesse Bernard Johnston III AP – This undated photo shows Jesse Bernard Johnston III, 26, wearing a Marine dress uniform with ribbons …

The revelation comes just months after the Army drew criticism for failing to flag the suspicious activities of the Army psychiatrist now charged with killing 13 and wounding dozens of others at Fort Hood.

The case, detailed in court records and other documents examined by the AP, raises more questions about the Army’s ability to vet soldiers’ backgrounds as it faces continued pressure from Congress over its screening and records system. While the soldier never deployed overseas, some say the case demonstrates how easily someone could pose as a member of the U.S. military.

Jesse Bernard Johnston III, 26, joined the Army Reserve in February as a sergeant and was assigned to the Corps Support Airplane Company based at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station. But he wasn’t qualified to hold that rank, according to military records obtained by the AP. The records show that Johnston’s only military experience was attending part of a 12-week Marine officer candidate course for college students in 2004.

Maj. Shawn Haney, spokeswoman for Marine Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said Johnston didn’t complete the course’s final six weeks. “He was never considered a Marine,” she said.

The matter, currently under investigation by the Army, means a soldier received a security clearance and was in position to lead troops in combat even though he hadn’t gone through basic training or spent any time in the service. The Corps Support Airplane Company has been deployed in Iraq, providing pilots as well as intelligence and support personnel for an aviation battalion set up to destroy improvised explosive devices.

If it’s proven that Johnston gained his Army rank based on a phony Marine record, it would be the first documented case of so-called “stolen valor” in which the military was duped during the enlistment process, according to watchdogs of such fraud. Most cases involve attempts to get veterans’ benefits or other forms of financial gain. Congress attempted to crack down on military impostors in 2005 by passing a law that makes it a crime to claim false decorations or medals.

“This just raises some incredibly significant issues at a time when this country is involved in a global war on terror,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican who served with the Marines in Iraq and the first Gulf War. “If this person was able to penetrate the military fraudulently, you have to ask the question: Couldn’t somebody who was out to do harm to our country do the same thing?”

Coffman is pushing for the creation of a single database for all military records as a step toward eliminating fraud.

Army officials, citing an ongoing investigation, declined to provide details of Johnston’s enlistment or say whether he’s suspected of providing false documents or using some other means to make himself out to be an ex-Marine.

Questions about Johnston were raised by an officer who grew concerned when Johnston couldn’t satisfactorily explain how he got certain Marine medals and ribbons that he displayed. The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said he contacted Marine and Army legal authorities and learned from the Marines that Johnston never served.

Lt. Col. Maria Quon, spokeswoman for the Army’s Human Resources Command, said her database contains an entry showing Johnston joined the military in 2002, but there are no documents to support the 2002 date. She described the lack of documentation as unusual and said it likely means the date was entered this year. The National Personnel Records Center, which collects information on all who have been discharged from the military, informed the AP that it could find no evidence that Johnston ever served.

Since March, Johnston has been stationed at Fort Rucker in Alabama, the primary training base for Army aviation. The Army declined to provide details of Johnston’s assignment. Johnston did not respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

In a recent court proceeding, Johnston’s former wife, also an Army reservist, accused him of using falsified documents to make it appear he’d served in the Marines. Melanie Rolfing, 24, made the claim in a sworn statement filed last month in Fort Worth family court when she had her two-year marriage annulled, alleging fraud. Johnston did not contest the annulment.

In her affidavit, Rolfing said she met Johnston in 2006 and that he joined her Army Reserve unit so they could fulfill their dream of becoming Army aviators together. She said Johnston led her to believe he’d served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He would even attend military functions wearing a Marine dress uniform, and people would come up to shake his hand and ask about his medals, she said.

“I don’t know who Jesse Bernard Johnston III is, but I do know he is not the man he claimed to be,” she stated in the affidavit. Rolfing, a sergeant in Johnston’s unit, said the Army has ordered her not to talk about the case publicly.

The idea that a volatile soldier could be hidden in the Army’s ranks has drawn congressional scrutiny since Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in November. After the shootings, evidence emerged that Hasan behaved erratically and maintained ties to a radical Islamic cleric. The Army has refused congressional requests for documents detailing what the Army knew about Hasan’s behavior, citing the ongoing criminal case.

Dawson Borough, PA Mayor Denies She Was Looking For Fight

May 21, 2010

From: www.pittsburghlive.com

By Mary Pickels, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, May 21, 2010

Dawson Mayor Carol Capella said she did not accompany borough resident Amanda Shultz to Melissa Jones’ Laughlin Street residence Tuesday evening looking for a fight.

 What she said began as a peaceful conversation about recent acts of vandalism in the borough ended in a physical confrontation. No one was seriously injured in the 8:50 p.m. incident.

 State police at Belle Vernon said Wednesday that Capella, 43, Shultz, 27, Jones, 36, and Capella’s son, borough Councilman Michael Capella, 23, all face charges of harassment and disorderly conduct. Carol Capella and Jones were both listed as accused and victims on a police news release. Shultz and Michael Capella were listed as accused.

 Carol Capella said there have been two recent incidents of pellet gun shooting in the borough, the most recent Monday night. She said Shultz’s vehicle and two of her own vehicles were damaged.

 Carol Capella said she and Shultz informed Jones that state police were contacted about the incidents and that they might be talking to her son about his possible involvement.

 “This is all alleged,” Capella said Thursday. She said she was not accusing Jones’ son.

 “She was very nice to me,” Capella said.

 When her son arrived home and learned where she was, Capella said, he joined her.

 “We were getting ready to leave, and neighbors were gathering,” Capella said.

 She said Jones “panicked.”

 “There were a lot of words going back and forth,” she said.

 Then, Capella said, Jones “smacked me right up side the head.”

 “She’s grabbing at my hair and ripped my earrings out,” Capella said. “My son said, ‘I can’t believe you just hit my mother.’ ”

 The two then fell to the ground, she said, until Capella was pulled from Jones.

 “I’m not here to fight,” Capella said yesterday. “I’m here to help this town. It was made to sound like we ran as a posse after this woman. That’s not what happened.”

 Capella said more information about the incident will be made public at a preliminary hearing.

 Calls to Jones yesterday were not returned.

 Police said charges will be filed before District Judge Dwight Shaner, after which the hearing will be scheduled.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Arrest Four in Shooting Death

May 21, 2010

Teen Escapes From Armstrong County, PA Courthouse

May 21, 2010

From: http://www.pittsburghlive.com

By Renatta Signorini, LEADER TIMES
Friday, May 21, 2010

A Sagamore 16-year-old escaped from the Armstrong County courthouse Friday around 8 a.m.

The teen was scheduled for a detention hearing in front of Judge Kenneth Valasek at 8:30 a.m.

County deputy chief probation officer Regina Himes said the teen was in the custody of officers from George Junior Republic, who had brought him to the courthouse for the hearing. Himes said the teen, who was not handcuffed or shackled and was wearing street clothes, was permitted to use a third-floor bathroom at the courthouse and escaped through a window.

George Junior Republic is a treatment facility for disadvantaged males in Grove City, according to its website.

The hearing was related to an incident on Thursday in which the teen allegedly broke into B&J Service Station in Dayton and stole cigarettes. According to a criminal affidavit, the teen doused the store with motor oil and attempted to set it and a gas pump on fire.

According to state police, the teen stole a truck from the service station and eventually crashed into another vehicle along Route 85 in front of DiMaio’s Market in Cowanshannock Township. Police said the teen was driving under the influence.

The incidents occurred between 6 and 7:10 a.m. Thursday, according to a criminal affidavit.

A representative from George Junior could not be immediately reached.