FBI


A minor actress from Texas was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison for sending ricin-tainted letters to President Obama, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and the head of his gun-control group.

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Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, was also ordered to pay $367,000 restitution as part of a plea bargain for pleading guilty in December to one count of developing, producing, possessing and transferring a biological agent for use as a weapon. She bought the materials — castor bean seeds and lye — online.

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The FBI arrested her in June 2013 after she was indicted by a federal grand jury. She gave bith the next month while in jail.

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Richardson mailed three letters in May 2013 from her home in New Boston, near Texarkana, and then drove to a Shreveport, La., police station to implicate her estranged husband, who had filed for divorce. She told the FBI she did not think the letters would be opened because of security measures.

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“What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got in store for you mr president,” read the letter to Obama. “You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face.”

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A former Dallas beauty queen, she had bit parts in TV series and film, including The Vampire DiariesThe Walking DeadFranklin & BashAll My Children and The Blind Side.

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Richardson apologized Wednesday before being sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider.

“I never intended for anybody to be hurt,” she said. “I’m not a bad person. I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone.”

“I do love my country, and I respect my president,” she added.

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Schneider said Richardson’s actions “put many lives in danger and threatened public officials at the highest level of government. The defendant claims that she did not intend to harm anyone, but certainly her actions could have had grave consequences.”

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Ricin is a biological toxin that can be fatal if inhaled or swallowed. There is no antidote or cure.

 

* Text by USAToday, July 16, 2014

Michelle Knight, the longest-held captive in the Ohio hell house, was removed from the FBI’s missing persons’ database just 15 months after her disappearance, according to a new report.

Cleveland spokeswoman Maureen Harper claimed the cops did the right thing by taking Knight’s name off the list in November 2003, The Cleveland Plain-Dealerreported.

Harper said cops were unable to contact Michelle’s mother Barbara to verify her daughter was still missing.

However, the paper reports that decision conflicts with the department’s written policy, where an officer must confirm a missing person has been found and then contact the FBI within two hours before the name is removed.

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Knight was found more alive more than 10 years after her Aug. 23, 2002 disappearance, along with Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, after allegedly being kept as sex slaves by Ariel Castro in Cleveland. Knight, now 32, was reportedly pregnant several times but Castro allegedly beat her until she miscarried The Post previously reported.

Having Knight’s name in the National Crime Information Center, called by the FBI as the “lifeline of law enforcement,” would have been the only way law enforcement agencies and victims’ groups could have helped in the search, the newspaper reports.

Harper said cops continued to work Knight’s case, confirming with Barbara that her daughter was still missing through May 2003.

After that, cops were unable to reach the estranged mother by phone, with a detective noting Michelle’s case “will remain invalid until new leads develop.”

Missing adult advocate Kym Pasqualini said if Michelle’s mom had called them for help “we would have had to say no” without an NCIC number to go with Knight’s name.

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Knight is still in the hospital recovering from her ordeal.

Yesterday Knight’s twin brother recalled his shock at seeing her alive for the first time in more than a decade.

“When I saw her, she was white as a ghost,” Freddie Knight, 32, told The Post. “But she told me, ‘Come over here and give me a hug. It’s been ages!’ ”

“She was happy to see me. It was emotional. She even recognized me — even though it had been 11 years.”

Freddie, who is estranged from their mom, Barbara, was the first family member to see Michelle after her escape.

Michelle was raped as a teen, became pregnant and lost the baby to social services just before she vanished in 2002. She was impregnated in the attack and had a child, which she then lost to state custody.

“We didn’t talk about that bad stuff. She’s been through a lot, so she’s not ready to talk about that,” Freddie added.

“I’m glad he’s in jail,” he said of Castro.

“I wish he was dead. He should have a death sentence; all those miscarriages. It’s crazy.”

Additional reporting by Lorena Mongelli  (May 10, 2013)

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‘Daddy’ is a ‘monster’: Ariel Castro’s daughter blasts fiend after women freed from Ohio hell house

Even with her demonic father in all likelihood gone forever, Gregg lives with a living reminder of the troubles that have plagued her family — she takes care of sister Emily Castro’s 5-year-old daughter.

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The little girl was taken away from Emily after she slashed her then 11-month-old daughter’s throat in April of 2008.

Things were not always as dark as they are now for the Castro family, although sources told The Post Ariel Castro spent years delivering severe beatings to his late-wife Grimilda Figueroa.

Gregg recalling nothing out of the ordinary going on in her childhood home where Ariel Castro kidnapped and held captive three women for about a decade.

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However, the shocking revelations about her father have now put his peculiar habits in a whole new light for Gregg.

“All these weird thing I noticed over the years like how he kept his house locked down so tight in certain areas, how if we’d be out at my grandma’s having dinner he would disappear for an hour or so and then come back and there would be no explanation where he went, everything is making sense now, it’s all adding up,” Gregg said.

At the time, however, Gregg did not think her father’s behavior was anything beyond strange.

For example, one time when she went to visit her father she asked if she could go upstairs to see her childhood bedroom but Castro talked her out of it saying, “Oh, honey, there’s so much junk up there. You don’t want to go up there,” she said.

Gregg thought nothing of the incident when it happened, saying that she just thought of Castro as “being a pack rat.”

While the upstairs was off limits later in life, the basement was a complete no-go zone of the house, even when Gregg was a child, seeing as it was always locked with a “cheap Masterlock.”

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One time Gregg did pick the locks, however, and made her way downstairs, “I remember there being a fish tank down there which was odd because there was nobody down there to look at the fish.”

There were no signs that women were being held captive or that there might have been a small girl living in the house, according to Gregg.

That doesn’t mean that Gregg didn’t know the girl existed. About two months ago Castro showed Gregg a picture of a little girl on his phone but he insisted it was his girlfriend’s child by another man.

“I figured at the most he had an illegitimate child out there, you know, and I would find out eventually,” Gregg said.

Gregg now knows the origins of her 6-year-old sister and hopes that she and the other women held captive by her father can get the treatment that they need.

She also hopes that they will come to understand that her father’s actions are not a reflection of her and her family.

“We don’t have monster in our blood,” she said.

One neighbor says a naked woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago. Another heard pounding on the home’s doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.

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Both times, police showed up but never went inside, neighbors say. Police also paid a visit to the house in 2004, but no one answered the door.

Now, after three women who vanished a decade ago were found captive Monday at the peeling, rundown house, Cleveland police are facing questions for the second time in four years about their handling of missing-person cases and are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.

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City Safety Director Martin Flask said Tuesday that investigators had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house but were still checking police, fire and emergency databases.

The three women were rescued after one of them kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbor’s telephone to call 911.

“Help me. I’m Amanda Berry,” she breathlessly told a dispatcher in a call that exhilarated and astonished much of the city. “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”

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Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, said Police Chief Michael McGrath.

Three brothers, ages 50 to 54, were arrested. One of them, former school bus driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, situated in a poor neighborhood dotted with boarded-up houses just south of downtown Cleveland. No immediate charges were filed.

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A 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry’s daughter was also found in the home, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba. He would not say who the father was.

The women were reported by police to be in good health and were reunited with joyous family members but remained in seclusion.

“Prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over,” said Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI in Cleveland. “These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”

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He added: “Words can’t describe the emotions being felt by all. Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry.”

Police would not say how the women were taken captive or how they were hidden in the same neighborhood where they vanished. Investigators also would not say whether they were kept in restraints inside the house or sexually assaulted.

Four years ago, in another poverty-stricken part of town, Cleveland’s police force was heavily criticized following the discovery of 11 women’s bodies in the home and backyard of Anthony Sowell, who was later convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

The families of Sowell’s victims accused police of failing to properly investigate the disappearances because most of the women were addicted to drugs and poor. For months, the stench of death hung over the house, but it was blamed on a sausage factory next door.

In the wake of public outrage over the killings, a panel formed by the mayor recommended an overhaul of the city’s handling of missing-person and sex crime investigations.

This time, two neighbors said they called police to the Castro house on separate occasions.

Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling in the backyard several years ago and called police. “But they didn’t take it seriously,” she said.

Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of the house in November 2011. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. “They walked to side of the house and then left,” he said.

“Everyone in the neighborhood did what they had to do,” said Lupe Collins, who is close to relatives of the women. “The police didn’t do their job.”

Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, but not in connection with the women’s disappearance, officials said.

In 2000, before the women vanished, Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made, Flask said.

In 2004, officers went to the home after child welfare officials alerted them that Castro had apparently left a child unattended on a bus, Flask said. No one answered the door, according to Flask. Ultimately, police determined there was no criminal intent on his part, he said.

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Castro, 52, was well known in the mainly Puerto Rican neighborhood. He played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands. He gave children rides on his motorcycle and joined others at a candlelight vigil to remember two of the missing girls, neighbors said. They also said they would sometimes see him walking a little girl to a neighborhood playground.

Tito DeJesus, an uncle of Gina DeJesus, played in bands with Castro over the last 20 years. He recalled visiting Castro’s house but never noticed anything out of the ordinary, saying it had very little furniture and was filled with musical instruments.

“I had no clue, no clue whatsoever that this happened,” he said.

Also arrested were Castro’s brothers Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50.

On Tuesday, a sign hung on a fence decorated with dozens of balloons outside the home of DeJesus’ parents read “Welcome Home Gina.” Her aunt Sandra Ruiz said her niece had an emotional reunion with family members.

“Those girls, those women are so strong,” Ruiz said. “What we’ve done in 10 years is nothing compared to what those women have done in 10 years to survive.”

Many of the women’s loved ones and friends had held out hope of seeing them again,

For years, Berry’s mother kept her room exactly as it was, said Tina Miller, a cousin. When magazines addressed to Berry arrived, they were piled in the room alongside presents for birthdays and Christmases she missed. Berry’s mother died in 2006.

Just over a month ago, Miller attended a vigil marking the 10th anniversary of Berry’s disappearance.

Over the past decade or so, investigators twice dug up backyards looking for Berry and continued to receive tips about her and DeJesus every few months, even in recent years. The disappearance of the two girls was profiled on TV’s “America’s Most Wanted” in 2005. Few leads ever came in about Knight.

Knight vanished at age 20 in 2002. Berry disappeared at 16 in 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. About a year later, DeJesus vanished at 14 on her way home from school.

Jessica Aponce, 24, said she walked home with DeJesus the day the teenager disappeared.

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“She called her mom and told her mom she was on her way home and that’s the last time I seen her,” Aponce said. “I just can’t wait to see her. I’m just so happy she’s alive. It’s been so many years that everybody thinking she was dead.”

Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, who were held captive by abductors at a young age, said they were elated by the women’s rescue.

“We need to have constant vigilance, constantly keep our eyes open and ears open because miracles do happen,” Smart said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

* AP,  May 7, 2013

Of all the story lines to emerge from l’affaire Petraeus, surely the following three are widest of the mark:

First, the idea that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency is a victim of America’s puritanical mores.

Second, the idea that, whatever the legal fine points, an FBI investigation involving a mistress accessing an email of a CIA director does not become a de facto investigation of the director.

Third, the idea that a CIA director can have a private email account, wholly personal and separate from his job.

All extramarital affairs are human tragedies. That would be true even if this one involved a factory worker and secretary cheating, not two high-profile, high-achieving West Point graduates. The difference is that the pain and injustice are even more monstrous for the innocent spouses and children here, because their private humiliation is playing out across our front pages and television screens.

At its core, however, the scandal that felled David Petraeus has public dimensions only tangentially connected with sex. An affair that was truly private might be buried quickly and quietly. Now that the affair has been broadcast to the world—beginning with Mr. Petraeus’s own resignation statement—honor itself requires honest answers to awkward questions that affect the public trust.

These questions start with the basic: When did this affair begin? Initial reports suggested that it started in Afghanistan, where biographer Paula Broadwell spent much time with the general. Now his friends are telling reporters that the affair began after he joined the CIA in September 2011.

Let us hope this is true. We must hope so, first, because if his affair occurred while he was still in the Army, it is a crime under the uniform code of military justice. We must hope so, too, because if the affair started before he took over the CIA, the truthfulness of his statements to investigators during the run-up to his Senate confirmation might be called into question.

Ask former Clinton cabinet member Henry Cisneros or Bush Homeland Security pick Bernard Kerik about the consequences of making false statements during confirmation checks. They can be grave. At the public level, the more candid the general is about his affair, the more credible he will be when he speaks about Benghazi.

The same goes for the email. On the face of it, that a man in his position would send as much “private” email as has been reported seems extraordinary, given that every foreign intelligence service on the planet would love to know those emails’ contents. In addition, Ms. Broadwell apparently had classified documents on her computer.

The FBI says it is satisfied that these documents didn’t come from Mr. Petraeus. But they did come from someone—and it would be good to know who. We ought to know more about how exposed that information is, especially if it was traveling the world through Gmail. Quite apart from questions of sexual intimacy, we ought to know, too, whether the privileged access that Mr. Petraeus gave his biographer allowed her to get (or encouraged those around him to give her) information she ought not to have had.

Above all, Mr. Petraeus’s affair raises questions about what the general was telling Congress and the public about the mess in Benghazi that saw four Americans killed. We know Mr. Petraeus can be direct when he wishes. We saw that with the unequivocal CIA statement denying that anyone in the agency ordered anyone not to come to the aid of those under attack in Benghazi.

Less clear, alas, is the CIA involvement in the spin put out by the White House: that the attack on the consulate was the work of an out-of-control mob enraged by a video blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad. News reports in the aftermath of the attack suggest that Mr. Petraeus backed the White House line when he briefed Congress.

Finally, there is Americas “unrealistic” attitude toward sex. David Gergen complained about this view on “Face the Nation” on Sunday: “I think we have to be understanding that as the saying goes the best of men are still men—men at their best.”

Depends on what you mean by being “realistic” about sex and human nature. Citizens who accept positions in government that give them access to sensitive information—myself included, when I went to work for the White House in 2005—are asked highly intrusive questions about marriage and adultery. The questions involve less moral judgment than a practical recognition that sexual intimacy is more than a physical act; it leads to emotional entanglements that can take even the most judicious of us to reckless and irresponsible places.

All of which relates to the question of the week: Given what we know now about the consulate attack in Benghazi, we need to find out whether Mr. Petraeus’s personal troubles influenced what he said to Congress. In short, America still needs to know what Mr. Petraeus’s unvarnished view of Libya was, and is.

 

*Text by “The Wall Street Journal” (Editorial); November 12, 2012