TSA Employee Charged With Kidnapping And Rape Was Previously Convicted Of Stalking And Harassment And Had Served Time In Jail. Hospitalized Now After Doing The Right – Trying To Kill Himself

November 26, 2010

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Channel 2 Action News has learned a TSA security worker accused of abducting and sexually assaulting a woman had previously been convicted of misdemeanor harassment and stalking.

Randall King remains hospitalized following a suicide attempt. Police said last Wednesday, King agreed to drive a woman home from the airport. Instead, investigators said King took her to a MARTA station parking lot and placed novelty handcuffs on her.

Investigators said he drove her 50 miles away to his home in Troup County and sexually assaulted her. The woman told police that King gave her a suicide note, his car and let her go, investigators said.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration said privacy laws precluded him from releasing any background information on King.

Channel 2 Action News reporter Tom Regan reviewed court records from Clinton County, Pennsylvania. According to the records, King was charged with nine offenses of harassment and stalking by communication in January 2001. A court clerk told Regan that King pleaded guilty and spent three months in jail for skipping a court appearance.

TSA has a long list of “disqualifying offenses” for employment at the federal agency that operates airport security. Those offenses include felonies, violent crimes, theft, and crimes involving security and transportation. Regan checked the list and found that it did not include misdemeanor offenses of harassing and stalking.

Brent Brown, a security expert who runs a company in Smyrna, told Regan that he believes a job candidate with a record of stalking should not be hired by the TSA.

“This type of misdemeanor, this is harassment. You’re putting a person in a public area. I would say that would disqualify him for employment,” said Brown.

Hogansville police told Channel 2 Action News that they have prepared warrants on the 49-year-old airport security worker but would not specify the nature of the charges.

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Montgomery County Virginia Police Officer Jason Cokinos Fined Just $185 For Speeding – Off Duty Cruiser Wreck Left 14 Year Old Boy Brain Damaged And A Quadriplegic

November 18, 2010

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, VIRGINIA – A Montgomery County police officer who hit and paralyzed a Clarksburg boy with his cruiser received a $185 speeding ticket and is now canvassing neighborhoods that show spikes in crime.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Luis Jovel Jr. is a quadriplegic with permanent brain damage who needs around-the-clock medical care for the smallest of tasks, including eating and getting dressed.

State officials won’t say whether Officer Jason Cokinos was disciplined following the April 2008 incident in Clarksburg.

“Personnel information is subject to [state] confidentiality laws,” said Patricia Via, who represented Montgomery County in the Jovel family’s civil lawsuit against the county and Cokinos.

Cokinos’ case qualified under the state’s confidentiality laws once the county police department’s internal affairs division became involved, said Lt. Paul Starks, spokesman for Montgomery police.

“When the case is referred to the Internal Affairs Division, it’s considered a personnel matter,” he said.

Cokinos, who was 23 at the time, was speeding at 56 miles an hour in a 30-mile-an-hour zone when he struck Luis — who was crossing Springtown Road in front of his home.

Seven months later in November, a Montgomery County District Court judge found Cokinos not guilty of negligent driving or contributing to an accident.

Cokinos then pleaded guilty to driving 26 miles-per-hour over the limit and he paid a $185 fine, including a $25 court fee.

A police investigation concluded that the boy would not have been hit had Cokinos been traveling at the speed limit, however.

The county will pay the Jovel family $400,000 in damages. The amount of damages the family could request was limited to $200,00 per case by a state law that restricts the legal liability of local governments.

Cokinos was traveling to an off-duty job when he struck Jovel.

Starks said the case qualifies for limited liability because he was in his police cruiser and wearing his uniform.

“If you are in the [cruiser] you are not considered off duty,” Starks said. Cokinos is now serving on one of two “community action teams,” which ramp up patrols in areas of the county where officers identify an uptick in criminal activity.

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Hero Charged After Pumching TSA Agent In Indianapolis Indiana Airport

November 18, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – A Connecticut man has been arrested after exchanging words and punching a TSA screener at a security checkpoint at Indianapolis International Airport.

According to a report from airport police, John A. Christina, 51, Simsbury, Conn., was charged with battery as a misdemeanor in connection with the incident about 2:50 p.m. Tuesday at the Concourse B checkpoint.

Christina, who could not be reached for comment today, was released from jail on $150 bond and scheduled in Marion Superior Court 10 on Dec. 13.

Jim Fotenos, spokesman for the Transportation Security Agency, said in an airport police report, “Our transportation security officers work on the front lines to protect the nation from a terrorist attack and physical violence against them is shameful. TSA will work with local authorities to see that appropriate action is taken.”

Airport officials declined further comment while the incident is under investigation.

Similar security checkpoint incidents at other U.S. airports have drawn concern and protests the past two weeks since TSA instituted search and pat-down procedures that some fliers believe are too personal and intrusive.

It is not completely clear from the police report why Christina punched TSA agent Gregory J. Hutman, 28, Vandalia, Ohio.

The report does not indicate that Christina refused to be screened before entering the concourse and boarding an airplane. He had already stood and been scanned in a full-body advanced imaging machine before the incident.

After he stepped from the machine, the men talked, but full details of the exchange are not in the police report.

But it indicates that Christina said he has a history of medical issues, including two metal implants, a colostomy bag and a fused right wrist.

According to the report, as Christina stepped from the scanner, he asked Hutman a question, though the report doesn’t provide details.

Hutman responded, according to the report, “He’s not from the Indianapolis airport and was not familiar with the process you are talking about.” The report doesn’t explain further.

“After the conversation, Christina punched him with his right closed fist in the middle of his chest,” the report said.

When Hutman asked why Christina hit him, Christina said, “I was only kidding with you,” according to the report.

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San Francisco California Police Attack Students Protesting Tuition Hikes

November 17, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – University of California students have clashed with police outside a meeting of the UC Board of Regents before its expected vote on another tuition increase.

UC spokesman Pete King says police arrested at least 16 protesters Wednesday who tried to cross a police barricade in San Francisco.

Christine Byon of the UC Students Association says a group of student protesters was pepper-sprayed.

Inside the meeting, several students urged the board to vote against the proposed 8 percent tuition increase.

UC officials say the fee hike is needed because the cash-strapped state has slashed funding to the 10-campus system.

The board is scheduled to vote on the tuition proposal Thursday.

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Frequent Flyer Pulled From Delta Airlines Flight And Questioned About Tattoo

November 17, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – It was the Tweet heard ’round the L.A. food world.

Noted Los Angeles food stylist Adam C. Pearson was settling into his seat aboard a Delta flight Saturday morning when the flight attendant tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to come to the front of the plane. His first thought? “I’m getting an upgrade!”

Not exactly.

Pearson was temporarily asked to step off the plane and learned that another passenger had reported him for suspicious behavior, and noted that he had the words “Atom Bomb” tattooed across his fingers. Questioned by the captain and the flight attendant, Pearson explained that the tattoos referred to a childhood nickname. After answering a few more questions, Pearson — who is a frequent Delta passenger and has flown over 142,000 miles with the airline this year alone — was allowed to return to his seat.

“I was just shocked,” Pearson said. “All eyes were on me, I felt everyone staring at me and I was like, ‘I didn’t do anything.’ ” Before the plane took off, he twittered: “Just pulled off delta flight, passenger said I was suspicious looking due to my tattoos @DeltaAssist not happy at all #goldmedallion fail”

When he landed in Memphis, he had over 150 e-mails asking him what happened, and learned that his Tweet had exploded on the social media venue. It was “reTweeted” by many in L.A.’s close-knit food world, where Pearson is well-known for his stylish presentation of food so that it can be photographed for glossy magazines, advertisements and cookbooks. (It was laughable to many that the colorful Pearson could be considered a safety threat.)

“I had no idea all this was going on while I was in the air,” Pearson said of the digital flurry. “It speaks to the power of social media.”

A Delta representative told Pearson the airline would look into the incident. “A public apology would be nice,” Pearson said. “I’m not out for blood,” he added, “but why didn’t they offer to book that other person on another flight if they didn’t like my tattoos? Why was that other person more important than me?”

Later in the day, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said he did not have any knowledge of the incident but said that the pilot and flight attendant must use their judgment to handle such matters.

Pearson, who is one half of a food blogging/food photography/food styling power duo (the other half being Matt Armendariz), said he has never before been questioned about his tattoos or behavior while flying. “It really just made me kind of sad that you could just point at someone and say ‘That guy is acting suspicious,’ ” he said. “It was just a bummer.”

It was also just one of the snafus in his trip. Pearson was traveling to Milwaukee for a food styling job for Kohl’s, but his first flight was cancelled. After racing around for new tickets, he was booked on the flight that would take him to Memphis and then on to Milwaukee. But a connector flight was overbooked, leaving him and his assistant with several hours to kill in Tennessee.

Like any good foodie, Pearson was finding a way to make it work: He used the Memphis layover to make a barbecue pit stop at Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que, which is where we caught up with him.

“They’ve got good pig,” he said.

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Florida HAZMAT Crew Called To School To Investigate Letter Sent To Principal With Feces

November 17, 2010

SANFORD, FLORIDA – A letter sent to the principal of Seminole High School contained what Sanford police believe to be human feces.

Investigators said it’s not clear who sent the envelope to the principal, but it is being turned over to investigators. It was sent through the United States Postal Service.

A hazmat crew responded to the scene, but they were able to determine the contents and clear the scene without having to lock down or evacuate the school.

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UK To Spend Millions Compensating Victims Tortured By U.S. Authorities

November 17, 2010

LONDON, UK – Bidding to restore the reputations of MI5 and MI6 and to rebuild damaged intelligence links with the United States, the British government said on Tuesday that it had agreed to pay compensation running into millions of dollars to 15 former detainees at Guantánamo Bay and one man still held there who have accused Britain’s intelligence agencies of colluding in their torture in the American-run detention system.

The government move followed years of lawsuits by the former detainees in which British officials have been required to hand over to the courts here intelligence information that came from the United States, prompting high-level American warnings that future intelligence cooperation might be curbed.

The domestic and overseas British spy agencies have seen their own operations dragged into the headlines, with dozens of officers engaged full time preparing to defend the lawsuits.

Against that background, the government of Prime Minister David Cameron chose to “draw a line” under the affair, in the words of the justice minister, Kenneth Clarke, who announced the compensation deal for the 16 men, all of whom are British citizens or legal residents here.

Although Mr. Clarke withheld financial details, saying he was honoring a demand by the former detainees, he said the payments would “save public money” by avoiding years of litigation that could have cost $50 million to $80 million.

Mr. Clarke said the deal “involves no concession of liability” in respect of the torture accusations, and “no withdrawal of the allegations” made by the former detainees. They have said in their lawsuits that agents of MI5 and MI6 worked closely with the C.I.A. and other American agencies involved in their interrogation, and must have known about the torture and mistreatment. They said they suffered so-called stress techniques like sleep deprivation; subjection to extremes of noise: heat and cold, beatings and death threats.

MI5 and MI6 have said that they rigorously opposed torture, but Scotland Yard has been weighing criminal charges against at least one MI6 officer.

In the House of Commons, the deal was greeted with a mixture of reluctant acceptance and outrage, with one Labour Party backbencher saying that “ordinary decent people will be thinking the world’s gone mad,” with the government paying more to the former detainees than to victims of terrorist attacks in Britain, and Dennis Skinner, another prominent Labour gadfly, shouting “money for old rope!”

Mr. Clarke, a 70-year-old lawyer who held many of the top cabinet posts in previous Conservative governments, admitted to a personal unease at the prospect of paying large sums of taxpayers’ money to individuals who were held for years in Guantánamo and other detention centers around the world under suspicion of being linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

He described the deal as one that “everybody is uncomfortable with, and many will dislike,” and added that many people in Britain might conclude that the government was rewarding individuals who were “advancing frivolous claims” against the British secret agencies “and getting away with murder.” Still, he said, the government had concluded that it was “better to draw a line under these cases and move on,” freeing MI5 and MI6 to get on with their work and safeguarding Britain’s “very, very important” intelligence ties with the United States.

Much of the criticism in Parliament focused on the government’s refusal to say exactly how much money was involved in the compensation settlements. Mr. Clarke offered no argument when opposition members said that the estimate of the legal costs saved by the settlement, and estimates of the compensation package running as high as $80 million that appeared in Britain’s morning newspapers, sourced to unnamed officials, were a pointer to the amounts involved. For the government, he said, it was a question of “how many tens of millions were we prepared to spend to engage in interminable litigation?” The settlement with the detainees came only weeks after Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, insisted that his operatives did not use or collude in torture. In the most declaratory statement anyone from the agency has made, Sir John called torture “illegal and abhorrent under any circumstances, and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it.”

Mr. Clarke used similar words to disavow any British involvement in torture, calling it “a serious criminal offense,” whether committed at home or abroad. “And we will not condone it,” he said.

The path to Tuesday’s settlement in Britain opened in July when Mr. Cameron approved negotiations on a deal. That followed a court order demanding the disclosure of a reported 500,000 confidential documents, prompting Mr. Cameron to say that reviewing the documents would take up huge amounts of time at Britain’s intelligence agencies. Mr. Cameron also announced the appointment of an independent inquiry into the accusations of MI5 and MI6 collusion with the C.I.A. and other foreign organizations in the torture of terrorism suspects.

Mr. Cameron said a retired appeals court judge, Sir Peter Gibson, would lead a three-member panel to review actions by the security services that have led to a dozen cases before British courts in which former detainees have charged that the British agencies of knew — or should have known — that the detainees were being mistreated.

It was men at the heart of those cases who made the deal with the government that was announced on Tuesday, ending the lawsuits and assuring the government that it would not have to disclose any more secret documents.

The former detainees who will be beneficiaries of the government payout include Jamil el-Banna, Moazzam Begg, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed, Martin Mubanga and Bishar al-Rawi. Some of them, especially Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Begg, have become well-known in a broad human rights debate in Britain. Several of the men, including Mr. Mohamed, spent years under investigation by American investigators, accused of plotting attacks against the United States, only to be released back to Britain when the cases were dropped.

One of the 16 men on the compensation list, Shaker Aamer, who remains at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after nine years of detention, has alleged that MI5 officers were present when he was beaten by American investigators in Afghanistan.

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