Ex-prosecutors press for new trial for death-row inmate

The list is impressive: A former governor, a former Florida Supreme Court justice and the former attorneys general of four states.

Each fought to put convicted murderers to death but each has now asked the Florida Supreme Court to grant a new trial to death row inmate Clemente Javier “Shorty” Aguirre, 34, the man sentenced to die for the bloody murders of his 47-year-old neighbor and her wheelchair-bound mother near Longwood.

The women, Cheryl A. Williams and Carol Bareis, 68, were stabbed to death in their mobile home in 2004. Williams had been stabbed 129 times.

Aguirre’s conviction has been undermined by new DNA evidence that suggests the real killer was a member of the victims’ family, according to new pleadings filed with the Florida Supreme Court.

She is Samantha Lee Williams, 31, Williams’ daughter and Bareis’ granddaughter. She lived in the mobile home with them and had had an argument with her mother hours before the slayings, according to the new evidence.

A new round of DNA testing after the trial turned up eight spots of her blood in the trailer, according to defense attorneys.

She also had a violent temper and a long history of mental illness, according to defense attorneys.

Jurors never heard about those things – her temper, her blood being found at the scene, her mental illness – according to the high-profile former public officials now asking the high court to give Aguirre a new trial.

New evidence “seriously undermines confidence in the conviction and the sentence to death,” the former prosecutors and attorneys general wrote.

They are former Texas governor and Texas attorney general Mark White; Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan; former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro; former Tennessee Attorney General W.J. Michael Cody; and four former Virginia attorneys general Mark Earley, Anthony Troy, Stephen Rosenthal and Richard Cullen.

They are joined in their friend-of-the-court brief, filed last week, by six other former prosecutors.

They do not claim that Aguirre is innocent – a claim his defense attorneys do make in their court pleadings – only that the new evidence warrants a new trial.

Their argument and new evidence is not a entirely new. Jurors at Aguirre’s 2006 trial did not hear it, but last year Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler in Sanford listened to two weeks of testimony then set it aside, ruling that had jurors known about it, they still would have convicted Aguirre.

Samantha Williams testified at that hearing, saying that, of course, her DNA was at the murder scene. She had lived in that trailer for 26 years.

She also acknowledged having a violent temper and to having been taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation about 60 times. The only person hurt during her outbursts, she testified, was her.

Aguirre’s attorneys, which include publicly-paid lawyers with the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel and the Innocence Project in New York, two weeks ago asked the Florida Supreme Court to overturn Recksiedler’s ruling.

Aguirre has long denied being the killer even though the victims’ blood was found on his short, shirt and shoes.

He told authorities that he walked into their home about 6 a.m., looking for beer, and found them already dead. He did not alert authorities, he said, because he was an undocumented worker from Honduras.

rstutzman@tribune.com or 407-650-6394407-650-6394

Stolen motor homes worth $500,000 found at Osceola campground

Arnaldo Luis Aguero and his buddy Onel Munoz were almost celebrity inmates this month at the Osceola County Jail where few people are charged with thefts exceeding $5,000.Aguero, 48, and Munoz, 44, both of Miami, were charged with stealing luxury motor…

Family Robbed In Early Morning Home Invasion In Hillman City

Detectives are investigating after three armed men forced their way into a South Seattle home early this morning and robbed a family at knife and gunpoint.

The victims were sleeping in their home in the 4600 block of South Orcas St—in the Hillman City neighborhood—when they awoke around 3:45 AM to the sound of the suspects forcing their way through a rear door.

The suspects then confronted the two men, two women and young child in the home and demanded money.

After one of the suspects then pulled a knife and stole a gold chain from a man in the home, a second victim ran to the kitchen to grab her own knife, but was met by another suspect armed with a gun.

After rifling through the home, the suspects fled and the victims called 911. None of the victims were injured in the incident.

Officers searched the neighborhood and called for a K-9 unit, but police were unable to find the suspects, who were described by the victims only as black males in their 20s, between 5’7 and 5’8, wearing dark-colored hooded sweatshirts.

Robbery detectives are now investigating the case.

If you have any information about this incident, please contact detectives at (206) 684-5535.

  July 22, 2014  

Garland police release surveillance video of two “people of interest” in 71-year-old’s murder

Garland police have released surveillance video of two “people of interest” in the murder of a 71-year-old woman over the weekend.

The blurry surveillance video, captured from a home across the street, shows two people walking to Janet Vanderslice’s front yard, toward her backyard and then back to her front yard.

Officer Joe Harn, a spokesman for Garland police, said it is hard to tell the gender of the two people, one of whom appears to be wearing an orange shirt.

“We’re thinking they are males, but we could be wrong,” Harn said.

Police believe Vanderslice was murdered between Friday morning and Saturday evening. The surveillance video falls in that time frame, according to a Garland PD news release.

“Here’s our hopes: Either it’s somebody that was legitimately there and we get a call from them,” Harn said. “Or somebody says, ‘Hey I know who that is.’”

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7 “Law & Order: SVU” Episodes & The Real-Life Headlines They Were Ripped From

Before the ending credits roll on each episode of “Law And Order: SVU,” there’s a slide that reads:

“The preceding story was fictional. No actual person or event was depicted.”

Yeah, riiiight.

Take a look at the following “SVU” storylines and tell us if they aren’t just a smidge too reminiscent of real-life headlines. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but does that adage apply to sexually based offenses that are considered especially heinous? Remind us to ask the elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit.

 

1) THE CRIME: Man snatches young girl and holds her as his personal sex slave.
EPISODE: Slaves” (Season 1)
PLOT: A hotshot lawyer, played by the incredibly well preserved Andrew McCarthy, is accused of keeping his Romanian immigrant maid locked up as a sex slave for him and his seemingly straight-laced wife.
REAL-LIFE HEADLINE: Pennsylvania teen Tanya Kach was held captive by Thomas Hose, a charming security guard from her school, who kept her squirreled away as his sex slave for nearly a decade.

 

2) THE CRIME: Baby stolen from inside womb, mom left for dead.
EPISODE: Monogamy” (Season 3)
PLOT: A seven-months-pregnant woman is found beaten in the park with her unborn child having been stolen out of her belly by someone who performed a DIY C-section.
REAL-LIFE HEADLINE: In 2004, Lisa Montgomery was convicted of killing pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett and then kidnapping the unborn child from Stinnett’s womb. Stinnett died and Montgomery was found a day later, trying to pass off the baby as her own. Currently behind bars at Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Montgomery is one of the few women on death row.

 

3) THE CRIME: Teen blames video game for inspiring heinous acts of violence.
EPISODE:Game” (Season 6)
PLOT: The squad can’t crack their case until Stabler’s young son points out the gruesome crime scene’s similarity to the plot of a popular—and extremely violent—video game, which turns out to be the catalyst for a couple of delusional teens to commit murder.
REAL-LIFE HEADLINE: In 2005, Alabama teen Devin Moore claimed his addiction to the video game Grand Theft Auto led him to go on a killing spree, shooting two police officers and a civilian, then trying to flee in a stolen police car.

 

4) THE CRIME: Jilted lover sets ex on fire.
EPISODE:Burned” (Season 8)
PLOT: A woman accuses her husband of rape, but the squad isn’t totally convinced she’s telling the truth because the suspect has no history of violence—plus, Blair Underwood plays him, so the guy is smoove. Not only do the claims turn out to be true, but the ex-husband won’t be satisfying until his wife is dead, so he lights her on fire.
REAL-LIFE HEADLINE: In 2005, Yvette Cade tried to get a restraining order on her estranged husband Roger Hargrave, but it was dismissed. Three weeks later, Hargrave set Cade on fire at her job at a T-Mobile store, leaving her with third-degree burns blanketing her torso, arms and head. Cade survived—though, as of 2010, she had undergone almost 30 surgeries—and Hargrave was sentenced to life in prison.

 

5) THE CRIME: Teen girls make pregnancy pact.
EPISODE: Babes” (Season 10)
PLOT: The department uncovers a group of high school girls who’ve all made a pregnancy pact with each other. The ringleader appears to have committed suicide after being cyber bullied because of the agreement; however, it’s a former boyfriend who really murdered the young mom-to-be after she refused to have sex with him.
REAL-LIFE HEADLINE: In 2008, it was discovered 18 students had become pregnant that year at Glouchester High, which led to the reveal of a not-so-secret pregnancy pact amidst girls at the school who wanted to all have children at the same time. The story was also made into a wonderfully campy Lifetime movie called, wait for it, “The Pregnancy Pact.”

 

6) THE CRIME: Coach preys on young male students to satiate sexual appetite.
EPISODE: Personal Fouls” (Season 13)
PLOT: A highly regarded high school basketball coach is accused of sexually abusing former students but the squad has a hard time finding victims that’ll admit to the abuse, especially when the key witness in their case is now a successful NBA player.
REAL-LIFE HEADLINE: Technically, this episode is based on 2009 allegations from famed hockey player Theoren Fleury that he had been sexually abused by former coach Graham James during the 1980s. However, the plot is also scarily familiar to the 2011 case against Jerry Sandusky, the beloved football assistant coach who was arrested and charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse to young boys over 15 years, including his adopted son.

 

7) THE CRIME: Man kidnaps young girls and holds them captive.
EPISODE:Imprisoned Lives” (Season 15)
PLOT: A young boy is abandoned in Times Square and ends up leading detectives to the home of a man who had kidnapped two women and kept them locked up in cages in his basement.
REAL-LIFE HEADLINE: In 2013, it was discovered Ariel Castro had kidnapped three young women in Cleveland and held them prisoner in his basement for over a decade. He even fathered a child with one of the victims. After the women were rescued, Castro was arrested and sentenced with life in prison; however, a month into his sentence, he was found hanging by a bed sheet in his cell.

Man Arrested for Kicking Portland Police Horse

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This undated image provided by the Portland Police department shows Olin, a police horse involved in a kicking incident, Wednesday July 9, 2014 in Portland, Ore. Police say they have arrested a 29-year-old man accused of running up to Olin and uttering a “karate-like battle cry” and delivering what a spokesman calls “a jumping, double kick” to the horse’s right thigh. Police say the horse was unfazed and unhurt. (AP Photo/Portland Police Department)

In this 2011 file photo, Portland Police officers ride police horses Olin, left, and Jaeger, in Portland, Ore. Police in Portland, say they have arrested a 29-year-old man accused of running up to Olin, uttering a “karate-like battle cry” and delivering what a spokesman calls “a jumping, double kick” to the horse’s right thigh. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Anne Saker)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police in Portland, Oregon, say they have arrested a 29-year-old man accused of running up to a police horse, uttering a “karate-like battle cry” and delivering what a spokesman calls “a jumping, double kick” to the horse’s right thigh.

Police say the horse named Olin was unfazed and unhurt Wednesday. A police spokesman notes Olin outweighed his attacker by about 1,000 pounds.

Olin and his human partner took Joseph Cruz into custody for investigation of interfering with a law enforcement animal. The man was also wanted on an unrelated arrest warrant.

The incident happened as mounted officers patrolled Portland’s Old Town, near a bus depot. They had stopped to speak to a group of people.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  July 22, 2014  

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole Delivers Remarks at Department of Homeland Security Press Conference on Human Smuggling Along the Southwest Border

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole Delivers Remarks
at Department of Homeland Security Press Conference
on Human Smuggling Along the Southwest Border

Thank you, Secretary Johnson, and thank you all for being here.  I am pleased to join the Secretary to discuss the joint law enforcement efforts of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to address the challenges created by the recent surge in undocumented immigrants’ crossing illegally into the United States.

As the Secretary has so poignantly described, the conditions for these migrants en route to the United States are horrible.  Human smuggling ventures lead to extremely dangerous circumstances that pose a threat to public safety and are serious humanitarian concerns.  We have encountered smuggled aliens that have been, kidnapped, taken hostage, beaten, sexually assaulted, threatened with murder or have died as a result of dangerous conditions.

The Department of Justice has a long history of working with DHS to investigate and prosecute human smugglers.  In fiscal year 2013, our U.S. Attorney’s Offices charged almost 3,000 defendants with the crime of bringing in and harboring certain aliens.  In the four fiscal years from 2009 to 2013, U.S. Attorneys filed charges against over 15,000 individuals for these crimes.  As of June 30, 2014, the Department has filed alien smuggling charges against more than 2,000 defendants in federal district court in this fiscal year alone.

These statistics are emblematic of the work of federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents who enforce our nation’s immigration laws.  The Department of Justice continues to work collaboratively with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to facilitate investigations like the ones Secretary Johnson described that may lead to prosecutions of those responsible for the illegal entry of individuals, including minors, into the United States.  Just two weeks ago, I met with the U.S. Attorneys who represent the southwest border districts to discuss additional ways to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that are facilitating the transportation of unaccompanied minors and others into this country.

In addition, we are working with our foreign counterparts to encourage them to target facilitators operating in their countries.  We are redoubling our efforts to work with the government of Mexico, to identify, apprehend, and prosecute smugglers who are aiding unaccompanied children in crossing the U.S. border. 

But arresting and prosecuting the smugglers, without more, will not solve the problem.  We also need to build the capacity of our counterparts in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to address the violence—particularly the gang violence—that encourages migration to the United States.  This violence remains endemic, even in countries—such as El Salvador—where truces have been brokered between gangs, such as MS-13 and the 18th Street gang.

This violence can be addressed only by a sustained commitment to the rule of law and law enforcement reform by the Central American countries from which these minors are fleeing.  Where a country makes this commitment, the Department of Justice has demonstrated its willingness to assist through exchanges of expertise. This is not theoretical.  We have done this successfully in Columbia.  The Justice Department works through our four law enforcement agencies—the FBI, DEA, USMS, and ATF—and two offices within the Department solely dedicated to overseas security sector work:  the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) and the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT).  With funding from Congress, both OPDAT and ICITAP can place federal prosecutors, and senior law enforcement officers, as long-term resident advisors in countries seeking to reform their laws as well as their investigative, prosecutorial, and correctional services.  We are hopeful that Congress will fully fund these capacity building programs in Central America and Mexico and that, as a result, we will be able to highlight even more successes in the months to come.

The Department of Justice will continue to prioritize cases involving smuggling or transporting of undocumented individuals, including minors, into the United States.  We appreciate our longstanding partnership with ICE and DHS and look forward to continuing our work together on this important law enforcement initiative.

  July 22, 2014  

Attorney General Holder Delivers Remarks at a Naturalization Ceremony Held at the Department of Justice

Thank you, Director [Leon] Rodriguez, for those kind words – and congratulations on your recent appointment as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  It’s a pleasure to welcome you back to the Justice Department where you spent so much of your career – experience which undoubtedly prepared you well for the new role in which you are already excelling.  I’d also like to thank your colleagues at every level of that critical agency for all that they’ve done to bring us together today, here in the Great Hall.  And I’d like to thank each of the dedicated public servants, distinguished guests, and proud family members and friends who have taken the time to be with us today.  It’s a privilege to share this special occasion with you.  And it’s a great pleasure to join you in celebrating the remarkable men and women before me – as we congratulate them on becoming the newest citizens of the United States.

This morning, we welcome 73 people from 52 countries around the world.  We welcome students from Afghanistan and Burkina Faso; an economist from China and a software engineer from Iran; a realtor from the United Kingdom and an environmental engineer from Malaysia.

Many of you have confronted great adversity, and overcome tremendous obstacles, to reach this auspicious moment.  And you have persevered through difficult – and in some cases dangerous – circumstances.  One of our new citizens escaped a decade of brutal civil war in Sierra Leone in order to seize a second chance at a better life.  Another left behind her parents, siblings, and friends in Zimbabwe so she could begin her own family here in America – and give her son a future filled with opportunities.  Like many of you, until a short time ago, she had never dreamed of even visiting the United States, saying once that “that dream was just too big for [her] imagination.”  Yet this morning, she – and 72 other extraordinary people – became U.S. citizens.

Like so many who have come to our shores throughout America’s history, I know that every one of you has struggled and sacrificed in order to earn the right to call this country your home.  And although the paths that led you to this Great Hall today are unique, your stories are in many ways as old as our Republic.  You follow in the footsteps of millions of courageous immigrants who have gone before you – who braved conflict and crossed vast oceans; who fled injustice, intolerance and oppression; who worked hard to gain a foothold on American soil in pursuit of an American dream.

I, myself, am a product of this pursuit.  While I was born and raised in New York City, I grew up in a household – and in a neighborhood – of immigrants.  My father and all four of my grandparents came to this country many years ago from the island of Barbados.  They brought with them Bajan traditions and values that helped to shape my upbringing.  They taught my brother and me the importance of family and education.   And they instilled in us the timeless values of tolerance, respect, integrity, and service.

When I think of the duties, the rights, and the weighty responsibilities of American citizenship – responsibilities that are, as of this moment, entrusted to each of you – I think of my father – for whom I am named.  Although his journey did not begin here, his dedication to the American Dream ran so deep that he put his life on the line to defend it the moment it was threatened – volunteering to serve in the United States Army during the Second World War.  He was always proud to wear the uniform of his country – a uniform he treasured throughout his life.  And he never lost faith in the greatness of his country even when it did not reciprocate his devotion; he never stopped believing in the promise of this nation, even when that promise was obscured by discrimination and injustice.

My father always taught my brother and me, by word and by deed, that this country’s true greatness lives in the power of every citizen to help chart its future course.  And I know that, like generations of immigrants before and since, that steadfast belief guided him, throughout his life, to take principled action.

Such is the story of countless people who have come to this country from around the world, driven by little more than the hope of a brighter future for themselves and their children.  Such is the story of the United States – a nation that immigrants from all parts of the globe, including the founders who established our system of government and drafted our Constitution, have had a critical role in building and sustaining it to this very day.  After all, I am mindful this morning that the statues behind me in this Great Hall were fashioned by an immigrant from Germany.  The eighteen famous panels which surround the staircase leading up to this Hall were painted by an immigrant from Canada.  And from those who built this Department to those who serve it faithfully every day – from America’s greatest businesses, to our most successful enterprises, to our most enduring achievements and symbols of national pride – our identity has always been shaped by men and women, from every corner of the globe, who see in this country their own dream for self-determination, their own pursuit of happiness, and their own hope for equality, opportunity, and justice for all. 

I am confident that the new Americans in this room will continue that enduring legacy. Many of you are already making remarkable contributions – by volunteering in your communities, starting new businesses, and even, like my father, joining the U.S. military.  And I want you all to know that, here at the Justice Department, we are firmly committed to protecting your rights to do just that.  We have long worked with new citizens to ensure that you are accorded the freedoms and opportunities due to every American.  Our Civil Rights Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices enforces a law that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of citizenship status and national origin.  Our Executive Office for Immigration Review ensures that immigration cases are adjudicated both fairly and expeditiously.  And our Office of Special Counsel has a hotline dedicated to helping U.S. citizens and other work-authorized individuals if they are ever discriminated against in employment.

After all, we know from our history that our success as a nation is just as dependent on the contributions of Americans-by-choice as it is on those of Americans-by-birth.  And we have often seen that the source of one’s potential – and one’s power to improve and strengthen this country – comes not from birth or bloodline, but from an abiding belief in American ideals and a steadfast commitment to our founding principles.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen all too clearly in recent headlines and heartbreaking stories, the American Dream remains out of reach for far too many.  The unfolding situation along our southern border vividly underscores the importance of working together to strengthen our immigration system.  As Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole made clear during a recent visit to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s McAllen Station, in Texas, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies are working around the clock to address the increasing number of migrants – and particularly young people – who are arriving in this country.  We are refocusing immigration court resources and seeking new funding to fulfill this urgent need.  We are doing everything in our power to combat transnational crime and confront the threats posed by criminal gangs.  And we are providing technical assistance to Central American countries – so that we can help identify and hold responsible all those who exploit innocent families and smuggle immigrants into the United States.

Today, I’m calling on Congress to provide the critical support that President Obama has requested to address this urgent situation in a way that is both responsible and humane.  And going forward, I remain committed to working with leaders from both parties to reform and modernize America’s immigration system.

Immigration reform is not only a moral imperative – it’s an economic necessity.  Especially in this rapidly-changing era of global competition, we must ensure that this country can continue to attract ambitious, highly-driven men and women like the new citizens before me: the best workers and the brightest minds; the top innovators and educators; the most talented engineers and entrepreneurs.  Now more than ever, we need your skills, your ideas, your inspiration, and your idealism – so we can continue to preserve and expand the promise of the American dream for generations to come.

That’s why I am both proud and humbled to be among the first to officially welcome each of you as a new member of the American family.  Whether you began your journeys in China or India – in Egypt or the United Kingdom – you remind us today that we are not, and have never been, a country of one culture, one color, or one creed.  On the contrary: we are and will forever be a nation infused with the influences of the world; a nation whose diversity constitutes its greatest strength; and a nation at once united by our common ideals, respectful of our proud past, and bound together in our enduring pursuit of a more perfect union.

I am honored to join you in this pursuit.  I congratulate you, once again, on this extraordinary occasion.  And I thank you for allowing me to share it with you.

At this time, I’d like to invite one of our new citizens – Cecelia Mahlunge – to conclude our ceremony by leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  July 22, 2014  

Ruling Deals Blow to Healthcare Reform

     (CN) – A divided federal appeals court panel struck down financial assistance available under the Affordable Care Act, saying the government cannot lawfully subsidize premiums for consumers in 36 states that use the federa…