D.C. jail guard pleads guilty in drug smuggling, bribery case

D.C. jail guard pleads guilty in drug smuggling, bribery case

WASHINGTON, DC (WRIC) — A D.C. jail guard who oversaw an entire housing unit has pleaded guilty alongside an accomplice who schemed with her to smuggle drugs into the district’s central detention facility.

Beverly Williams, 52, was a D.C. corrections officer and corporal who “was the Officer-in-Charge for shift’s in DOC’s Central Detention Facility,” according to a statement of facts submitted as part of her plea agreement.

Williams conspired with Keywaune McLeod, 28, a D.C. resident, and Andre Gregory, 31, his cousin and an inmate at the facility, to move drugs and other contraband into the jail.

In one call Gregory made from jail in June 2022, he asked Mcleod, “Is it possible somebody could meet you and drop something off at MGM?”

In other conversations later that year, Gregory said to Mcleod, “I told slim mother [referencing Williams] 7:00 o’clock so she going to meet you with that at 6:00.”

Gregory also repeatedly instructed Mcleod, using coded language, on how much to pay Williams for her assistance.

In one typical handoff in August 2022, Williams met Mcleod in front of a local high school, took a package of drugs from him and then drove to her shift at the jail. Although Williams was searched when she entered the jail, she was able to conceal the drugs on her person.

Then, she entered a housing unit under the guise of a security check, slipped into a shower area — where there were no cameras — then emerged a few moments later. Shortly afterwards, Gregory enters and leaves the same area.

Williams was paid $500 for that exchange, which Mcleod and Gregory also discussed on a jail phone line after the handoff was completed.

The scheme eventually unraveled when Williams was caught in September 2022 with two packages containing weed and pills concealed in her uniform.

Gregory is still awaiting a plea hearing in D.C. court.

Unmentioned in the plea agreement, but alleged in an affidavit filed with the initial charges, was an apparent intimate relationship between Gregory and Williams. At one point, in an apparent reference to Williams, Gregory told Mcleod he would “put a ring on that junk” when released.

The affidavit also spoke to a potential monetary motive for Williams, who investigators confirmed was a frequent customer at the MGM casino in Maryland — a frequent site of handovers between her and Mcleod.

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At least 2 Chicago cops are benched amid allegations of missing guns, false paperwork

At least 2 Chicago cops are benched amid allegations of missing guns, false paperwork

Chicago’s police oversight agency, COPA, is investigating allegations that at least two Chicago police officers improperly inventoried firearms that they recovered while working on the city’s Far South Side. The full scope of the investigation, which a source said began when a gun went “missing,” and exactly how many cops are involved is unclear.

“COPA is actively investigating the actions of the involved officers and made a recommendation to the Chicago Police Department to relieve the officers of their police powers,” COPA First Deputy Ephraim Eaddy said in a written statement Wednesday afternoon.

Two officers that a source identified by name as being under investigation have been reassigned to desk duty in the Alternate Response Section, according to the Chicago Police Department. CPD declined to answer any other questions about the allegations.

The Chicago Police Department regularly tweets photographs like these, showing guns that its officers allegedly recovered from the streets. | Twitter

“There is an open investigation into this matter,” the department said in an emailed statement. “We will not comment further to protect the integrity of this investigation.”

Neither CPD nor COPA would confirm how many officers are under investigation. The two cops confirmed to be on desk duty have been on the force for four to five years, according to city records. Both officers were assigned to the Calumet (5th) District before being reassigned due to the investigation. They have not been charged with any wrongdoing.

According to two law enforcement sources, part of COPA’s investigation involves allegations that the officers either did not inventory firearms they seized while on duty or filed false paperwork regarding gun seizures. CPD’s general orders detail specific steps officers must take whenever they remove a gun from the streets.

Failure to inventory a weapon creates the potential for devastating conduct, such as illegally selling the weapons or planting firearms at crime scenes and on people. Officials would not confirm if the ongoing investigation involves any allegation of officers using misappropriated firearms as so-called “drop guns.”

In recent years, the police department has consistently advertised the number of guns its officers seized while on patrol. Twitter feeds operated by CPD, including its 22 patrol districts and recently-departed Supt. David Brown have regularly featured pictures of freshly-seized firearms with words of congratulations for the officers responsible for confiscating the weapon.

“Chicago Police officers took 12,716 guns off Chicago’s streets—an average of more than 34 guns recovered every single day this year,” the department said in a New Year’s Day recap of its activities in 2022. “This also marked the second consecutive year of more than 12,000 firearms taken off the streets by Chicago’s officers.”

But critics argue that the department is misplacing priorities by running up gun seizure numbers when it should focus on arresting violent offenders who use firearms. By motivating cops to get every possible gun off the street, the department could be driving officers to make questionable decisions about searches, pursuits, and other behaviors.

During an online “training session” for journalists in June 2021, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office’s chief data officer, Matthew Saniie, argued that CPD was spending too much time collecting guns and not enough time arresting violent people.

Saniie said that while CPD seized more than 11,000 guns in 2020, “less than 20% of those guns ever get linked back to any type of shooting.”

Noting that 1,400 people accused of carrying a gun illegally in 2020 were arrested during street stops and had no previous convictions, Saniee suggested CPD should focus on “arresting the right people.”

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Scientists warn of unusual parasite that killed sea otters off California coast

Scientists warn of unusual parasite that killed sea otters off California coast

Four sea otters that washed ashore on the California coast died from an unusual parasite that scientists warn could possibly infect other marine wildlife and humans.

There are currently no known infections of the Toxoplasma gondii strain among humans, according to a study published Wednesday from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and UC Davis.

But the microscopic parasite could infect any warm-blooded animal or find its way into the food chain, the study said. That includes marine animals like mussels, clams, oysters, and crabs that are consumed raw or undercooked, corresponding study author Melissa Miller with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a written statement.

“I have studied Toxoplasma infections in sea otters for 25 years, and I have never seen such severe lesions or high parasite numbers,” Miller said of the dead otters. “We are reporting our preliminary findings to alert others about this concerning condition.”

Otters are especially susceptible to Toxoplasma infection, researchers said, because they find food along the shoreline and could be exposed to the parasite’s eggs in rainwater runoff as they feed on marine invertebrates. Typically, the parasite is found in wild and domestic cats and shed through their feces, according to the study authors.

The parasite strain, dubbed the COUG genotype, was first isolated in the wild from a mountain lion in British Columbia during an investigation of the parasite’s outbreak in humans in 1995 and a feral pig in eastern California, according to the study authors. The Canadian government reported there were 110 acute human infections identified and none were fatal.

The COUG genotype was present in all four otters, the study said.

The first otter washed ashore in San Simeon in San Luis Obispo County in February 2020, according to the study. The adult female otter was still alive, but thin, unresponsive and groaning. The other three otters washed ashore already dead from February through March 2022 in Cayucos in San Luis Obispo County and in Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz County, researchers said.

Numerous lesions were found throughout the nervous systems in the otters, but were lacking in the brain, which is typically one of the organs affected by the parasite, according to the study authors.

All four otters showed obvious signs of inflammation in their body fat, Miller said, and under the microscope, their tissue was flush with parasites, including faster-growing and actively multiplying invasive cells.

Otherwise the otters were healthy adults that had no other severe disease, according to the study.

Typically, it takes time for the parasite to invade and multiply in the brain, but the sparse number of parasites in the brains of the four otters suggests the infection spread quickly, Miller said.

“We don’t know yet the interval between infection and death for this strain,” Miller said.

Study author Karen Shapiro with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine said it was surprising to find the parasite in otters because it’s never been recorded in their species.

“So, finding this type [of Toxoplasma] in the marine environment was very unexpected, and particularly concerning given the rapid and virulent disease it caused in the four sea otters,” Shapiro said in an email.

In humans, the parasite can cause miscarriages and neurological disease, the study said.

The type of inflammation of the fat associated with toxoplasmosis has been reported in Hawaiian monk seals, according to Devinn Sinnott, a graduate student at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. That strain has not been determined yet and is an active area of research in the UC Davis lab, Sinnott said in an email.

“We still have much to learn,” Sinnott said in a written statement that accompanied the study. “Larger-scale studies are needed to understand the potential impact of infection by the COUG Toxoplasma strain on sea otter populations, how geographically dispersed it is, how it is being introduced into the ocean and what other animals might be affected.”

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Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine recovering after bathroom beating, lawyer says

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine recovering after bathroom beating, lawyer says

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine is recovering after he was beaten to a pulp by “three or four thugs” in the bathroom of a South Florida gym Tuesday night, his attorney said Wednesday.

The men cornered the rainbow-haired 26-year-old musician and ex-con — whose real name is Daniel Hernandez — and pounced on him inside the sauna of an LA Fitness, according to video footage posted online by OnlyInDade.

6ix9ine tried to fight back against the ruffians — but failed, his lawyer said.

“Employees heard the disturbance and the perpetrators fled,” the attorney, Lance Lazzaro, told NBC Miami.

“Police in South Florida were called and he was transported via ambulance to a local hospital.”

A clip of the beatdown was posted online and showed 6ix9ine lying on the bathroom floor in a fetal position as the angry men struck him with repeated blows.

6ix9ine’s face was left with slashes and bruises after the altercation.

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office said he was treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Cuts and bruises decorate the face of rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine after a Tuesday beating.
Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine had cuts and bruises on his face after the Tuesday night beatdown.

A group of men stand over rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine as they beat him in a bathroom.
6ix9ine’s attorney said he was attacked by a group of “three or four thugs.”

Palm Beach detectives are investigating the case, WPTV West Palm Beach said.

The Bushwick-born rapper was thrown out of a Miami baseball stadium Friday after causing a drunken ruckus last week.

In 2019, he was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang.

6ix9ine was facing racketeering and other charges that could have sent him to prison for decades.

But he took a plea deal that cut his time in exchange for ratting on his former Bloods associates.

At the time, the assistant US attorney said 6ix9ine “will forever have to look over his shoulder.”

Before that, in 2018, members of his entourage were involved in a shooting outside an Upper East Side restaurant.

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine walks away as blood streams from his face.
Authorities reportedly brought him to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine covered in blood in the Florida bathroom where he was beat up Tuesday.
It’s not clear what motivated the attack.

And in 2015, 6ix9ine was sentenced to four years’ probation and 1,000 hours of community service for posting a video online of a 13-year-old girl engaging in a sex act.

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Family of Irvo Otieno calls for justice as video shows death in custody

Family of Irvo Otieno calls for justice as video shows death in custody

Family members of Irvo Otieno and their lawyers on Tuesday called for mental health reform and steps to be taken to avoid a repeat of what happened to the 28-year-old Henrico County man who died earlier this month in a Central State Hospital intake room.

“A mental health crisis should not be a death sentence,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said during a press conference the First Baptist Church of South Richmond. “We don’t want anybody else in America whose family is dealing with a mental health crisis to be killed by the very people who are supposed to help them.”

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The comments came after the release of a video from the mental hospital showing Otieno being pinned to the floor prior to his death on March 6. A Dinwiddie County grand jury on Tuesday indicted seven Henrico County deputies and three hospital workers on second-degree murder charges in a case that has garnered national attention.

Central State Hospital

In this image from a Central State Hospital camera, Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and other workers are shown with Irvo Otieno on March 6. The image was taken at 4:29 p.m.

Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, has said Otieno’s treatment has close parallels with Floyd’s killing in police custody in Minneapolis in 2020.

“It is not lost on anybody who saw that video today, the fact that it was so unnecessary,” Crump said Tuesday. “Irvo was handcuffed at the wrist, he had leg irons on, he was facedown. Why did they feel it was necessary to put all their weight on him, for some of the officers to put their knee on his neck?”

Caleb Kershner, a defense attorney for deputy Randy Boyer, was critical of the video being released and took issue with Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill.

“It’s going to be more difficult to find a jury that has not been tainted or read a particular news story of any sort. So I’m disappointed in it,” he said earlier Tuesday after the court hearing in Dinwiddie County.

Otieno’s mother Caroline Ouko on Tuesday called the indicted deputies and hospital employees “thugs” and “monsters.”

“I was happy to hear that they were indicted,” Ouko said. “That is just the beginning step.”

The following video shows Irvo Otieno on March 6 at the Central State Hospital. Read more coverage here: https://bit.ly/3TvxZAN

Attorney Mark Krudys said he was troubled by the individuals who stood by and watched as the officers pushed down on Otieno.

“Everybody has an obligation to intervene in that circumstance, to say ‘no, that’s not right,’” Krudys said. “But nobody intervened. And then when his body was lifeless, and his pants were dangling on him, they didn’t do anything for an appreciable period of time.”

Krudys said his team is looking into possible body camera footage from Henrico police regarding a March 3 incident, when Otieno was transported from his Henrico home to Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

Ouko said she was excluded in the process of advocating for her son, noting that she made four attempts to see him while he was at Henrico hospital.

“In mental health and mental distress, your child needs you,” Ouko said. “Seeing me could have made have made a big difference.”

Instead, Otieno was taken to the Henrico Jail and later to Central State. Krudys said the deputies were not wearing body cameras at either location.

Henrico NAACP Vice President Monica Hutchinson during the Tuesday press conference said: “Jail is not, nor has it ever been, the best place for those having a mental health crisis. We must eliminate the use of jail as a response to a mental health crisis and mental illness, and instead work to improve access to community-based crisis centers.”

Otieno’s brother Leon Ochieng urged Gov. Glenn Youngkin to make mental health a priority, pointing out Youngkin’s recent comments calling Otieno’s death “heart-wrenching.”

“If you really do empathize and feel what we feel, do something,” Ochieng said. “Let your state be an example … all we need to do is make this an agenda to put pressure on lawmakers to invite our communities to have families who are ambassadors for mental health.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney in a social media post on Tuesday said: “Irvo Otieno should be alive today. His life was taken in a place where he should have been safe. We need accountability and we need more mental health resources.” 

Read the story at https://bit.ly/40291Le

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Former lawmaker behind Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill pleads guilty to $150K COVID relief fraud

Former lawmaker behind Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill pleads guilty to $150K COVID relief fraud

The disgraced former Republican Florida lawmaker behind the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements related to a scheme to defraud the government of COVID-19 relief funds. 

Joe Harding, who resigned from the Florida legislature in December after his indictment, faces up to 35 years in prison for his crimes. 

The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida said Harding fraudulently obtained $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funds from the Small Business Administration after making false statements on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan application between Dec. 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021.

Harding used fake bank statements as supporting documentation on his loan applications, which were made in the name of one of his dormant business entities, which had no employees at the time, federal prosecutors said.

The 35-year-old ex-state rep from Ocala was elected to the Florida House in 2020 and sponsored legislation banning discussions related to gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools up until the third grade.

The legislation, derided by liberals as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, sparked protests and was opposed by Disney, Central Florida’s largest employer.

The bill was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in March of 2022.

"Don't Say Gay" bill protests
Harding sponsored the controversial so-called “Don’t Say Bill” in the Florida House.
AFP via Getty Images

After Harding fraudulently obtained the EIDL proceeds, federal prosecutors say he made three monetary transactions each involving more than $10,000 in ill-gotten funds: a transfer to his joint bank account, a payment to his credit card and a transfer into a bank account of a third-party business entity.

Harding’s sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place at the US Courthouse in Gainesville, Fla., on July 25.

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