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Real estate heiress who posted $35M bail acquitted of murder
By JANIE HAR | Fri, November 15, 2019 06:20 EST
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco Bay Area real estate heiress who was under house arrest on $35 million bail for more than two years plans to reconnect with her children and visit family in China after a jury acquitted her of killing the father of her kids, her attorney said Friday.
After deliberating for 12 days, jurors found Tiffany Li not guilty on charges of murder and conspiring with her boyfriend to kill 27-year-old Keith Green in 2016 over a custody dispute.
The case drew global attention when Li’s family, who made a fortune in real estate construction in China, posted one of the highest bail amounts on record in the United States.
Li wept Friday as the verdicts were read and rushed out of the building afterward. Jurors deadlocked on murder and conspiracy charges against Li’s co-defendant and boyfriend, Kaveh Bayat.
Attorney Geoffrey Carr said Li plans to travel to see family in China and strengthen her relationship with her children. She plans on bettering herself as a person, he said.
“Any time any defendant is found not guilty in a serious crime, they’re (given) a gift by somebody — I don’t believe in God, but somebody — and they should pay attention,” Carr said.
He bristled at a question that Li’s immense wealth allowed her to build a strong defense team that secured the not-guilty verdict. Carr said the team of three lawyers and four investigators would have worked just as diligently had they been appointed by a judge to a poor defendant.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said jurors gave “their heart and soul” to the decision.
“Obviously disappointed, obviously we don’t agree,” he said. “But as we always say, this is how the jury system works, and we respect the jury for what it does.”
Prosecutors said Li lured Green, her former boyfriend, to her mansion in Hillsborough, south of San Francisco, to discuss custody of their children. They say Bayat shot Green in the mouth and the two hired a friend to dispose of the body.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Green’s blood was found in Li’s Mercedes and gunshot residue was discovered in her garage.
Li’s attorneys argued that Green was killed in a botched kidnapping plot and that she had nothing to do with his death. She had settled the custody issues with her former boyfriend, they said.
Green’s body was found along a dirt road north of San Francisco nearly two weeks after he was last seen meeting with Li about their children. The pair met around 2009.
The prosecution faced a setback earlier this month when its chief witness, Olivier Adella, was arrested on charges of contacting an ex-girlfriend and witness for the defense. Adella was expected to testify that Li and Bayat asked him to dispose of Green’s body, but prosecutors did not call him as a witness.
EarthLink – News
St. Mark’s Square reopens in Venice, but water remains high
By COLLEEN BARRY | 12:47 EST
VENICE, Italy (AP) — Tourists and residents were allowed back into St. Mark’s Square in Venice on Saturday, a day after it was closed due to exceptionally high tidal waters that swept through most of the lagoon city’s already devastated center.
Despite sunny skies, the city remained on edge due to possibly more wind-propelled high tidal waters during the weekend. The city was struck Tuesday by devastating floods, the worst in decades.
Water rose up again in St. Mark’s Square on Saturday and the forecast for Sunday was worse. The tide peaked at 1.10 meters (3 feet, 7 inches) above sea level on Saturday at noon, leaving St. Mark’s inundated with more than 20 centimeters (8 inches) of water.
Late Tuesday, water levels in Venice reached 1.87 meters (6 feet, 1 inch) above sea level, the highest flooding since 1966. The forecast for Sunday was for the high water mark to reach 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) above sea level.
On Saturday, tourists sloshed through St. Mark’s Square and strolled across it on raised walkways. Many snapped photos of themselves standing in shallow water in front of St. Mark’s Square to document their presence during this exceptional high-water season. Museums filled up again with tourists and the city’s gondolas were back in business. But the city’s museums were expected to shut down on Sunday due to the threat of high water.
Luigi Brugnaro, the city’s mayor, estimated damages from the flooding would reach at least 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). He said a final tally of the damage to homes, businesses, stores and the city’s rich cultural heritage would be done once the city dries out, according to Italian media.
“Venice is once again being watched by the world and it needs to show that it can succeed and pick itself back up,” the mayor said in an interview with the Gazzettino and Messaggero newspapers.
Brugnaro said Venice was setting up programs to help cover damages sustained by individuals and businesses, noting that families could expect up to 5,000 euros ($5,500) and businesses up to 20,000 euros ($22,000) in aid. He said businesses and individuals suffering even more serious losses could possibly qualify for aid covering up to 70% of damages.
Among those recovering from Tuesday’s devastating high waters was Sabrina Laggia and her husband. She was blowing dry stone jewelry made by her husband, Alfredo, in their workshop near St. Mark’s Square. She was dreading forecasts for more high water on Sunday.
“We have been here 30 years and we have never seen anything like this,’’ she said. “Lots of acqua alta, but never this high.” “Acqua alta” is the term Venetians use to describe flooding from wind-driven high tides.
Alfredo said they used to feel safe if the forecast said anything up to 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) – about the level they expected Tuesday night only to be surprised when it surged to 1.87 meters without warning.
He spent until 2 a.m. Tuesday in their store, named “Not Just Wine,” moving his creations to higher positions. But the water reached about 50 centimeters (19.6 inches) in height – well above the usual 10 centimeters to 15 centimeters (4 inches to 6 inches). Finally there was no place else to move objects in the tiny workshop.
The couple lost an air conditioner and a small soldering gun in the store and a washing machine at their home nearby.
Sabrina was rinsing her husband’s creations – which include filigree bags with velvet detailing and Swarovski crystal-encrusted masks – with fresh water and blowing them dry, but she was uncertain if what she was doing will really do the trick against the lagoon’s salt water.
An employee at another shop, Dorina Balku, was cleaning up Murano glass creations. They lost one large glass fish in the flood that is priced at over 3,000 euros ($3,300) and another large vase. While much of the glass could be cleaned, the jewelry made from the glass beads would have to be taken apart and remade to be salvaged because the fixtures had already corroded from the salty, briny water.
“What can we do? It happened. It is important that people are OK,’’ she said.
On Thursday, the government declared a state of emergency, approving 20 million euros ($22.1 million) to help Venice repair the most urgent damage.
Built on a series of tiny islets amid a system of canals, Venice is particularly vulnerable to a combination of rising sea levels due to climate change coupled with the city’s well-documented sinking into the mud. The sea level in Venice is 10 centimeters (4 inches) higher than it was 50 years ago, according to the city’s tide office.
The flooding has left Italians exasperated at the incompletion of the city’s long-delayed Moses flood defense project. Moses consists of a series of moveable barriers in the lagoon that can be raised when high winds and high tides combine to threaten to send “acqua alta” rushing across the city.
Completion of the multibillion-euro project, under construction since 2003, has been delayed by corruption scandals, cost overruns and opposition from environmentalists worried about its effects on Venice’s delicate lagoon ecosystem.
“They need to finish the Moses tomorrow,’’ said Sabrina Laggia. “Not next year.”
Cain Burdeau reported from Castelbuono, Sicily.
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Police not pursuing charges against Browns’ Myles Garrett
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland police say they are not investigating Browns player Myles Garrett for striking a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback in the head with a helmet.
Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia (CHAWCH’) said Friday that police hadn’t received a complaint from Mason Rudolph.
And a city spokeswoman says the prosecutor can’t comment because Rudolph hasn’t filed a complaint.
Rudolph’s agent, Tim Younger, tells media outlets that no legal options “have been removed from the table.”
Rudolph called Garrett’s actions “pretty cowardly.”
Garrett pulled off Rudolph’s helmet during a melee at the end of Thursday night’s game in Cleveland and used it to strike him on the head.
Garrett is the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick in 2017 and was ejected from the game. The NFL on Friday suspended Garrett indefinitely.
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Man, young boy shot at New Jersey high school football game
By WAYNE PARRY | Sat, November 16, 2019 05:19 EST
PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. (AP) — Players and spectators ran for cover Friday night when a gunman opened fire at a New Jersey high school football game, wounding two people.
One of the wounded was a young boy, who was airlifted to a children’s hospital in Philadelphia “with some serious injuries,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said.
Panicked spectators and some of the players knocked down a fence in their haste to escape the confines of the field.
“It was mayhem, literally people coming in waves running away” said Jonathan Diego, who played for the Pleasantville team in 1984. Diego helped coach a Pleasantville youth football team involved in a game against an Atlantic City team in which three spectators were shot and wounded in 2005. All three survived.
That same Jokers team was practicing in 2015 when a spectator was shot, but survived.
“Unfortunately, around here it’s not as uncommon as it sounds,” Diego said.
He described a panicked scene as some children were separated from their parents, and other parents held babies and young children tight to keep them from being run over by fleeing spectators.
The shooting happened about 8:30 p.m. during the third quarter of a playoff game between the Camden Panthers and the Pleasantville Greyhounds, said Pleasantville Police Chief Sean Riggins.
Tyner, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press the shooting took place on the Pleasantville side of the bleachers. No one had been arrested as of late Friday, and authorities were investigating whether more than one shooter might have been involved.
Authorities did not identify shooting victims nor release information on their conditions other than to say both were alive several hours after the shooting.
Diego said his friend, a retired paramedic, gave first aid to a young boy who had suffered a gunshot wound to the neck.
“He applied pressure to the little boy’s wounds on his neck, trying to slow down the bleeding until the ambulance could come up,” Diego said.
The boy was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The adult shooting victim was taken to AtlanticCare Regional Medical Center in nearby Atlantic City.
A statement from the Camden City School District said no Camden High School students “were injured or otherwise harmed.”
Pleasantville is about seven miles (11 kilometers) west of Atlantic City. Its high school team won its first division title in 43 years this season, and the stands were packed.
Videos obtained by The Associated Press show people hitting the ground, running from the bleachers and jumping over chain-link fences as gunfire sounds. At least six gunshots are audible in a video from Jersey Sports Zone, which also shows players stop mid-play, look at the stands and then turn and run.
“I heard the gunshots,” Pleasantville football player Ernest Howard, 17, said in a Twitter clip posted by a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. “We started all running for this fence and tried to run inside the gym.”
In a press conference, Tyner referenced a Thursday shooting at a Southern California high school, where a 16-year-old boy killed two students and wounded three others. The shooter died Friday.
“This is a tragic situation, to say the least, on the heels of what just happened in Santa Clarita, California,” Tyner said. “It has hit home here in Pleasantville, New Jersey, and it is very disturbing, to say the least.”
This story has been corrected to report the name of the 17-year-old football player Quote: d is Ernest Howard, not Ernest Holland; that Pleasantville is west of Atlantic City, not southeast and that a witness’ first name is spelled Jonathan, not Johnathan.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
EarthLink – News
Lithuanians, Norwegian released in spy swap with Russia
By JAN M. OLSEN 08:58 EST
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Two Lithuanians and a Norwegian convicted of espionage in Russia were freed Friday in exchange for two Russians who had been in prison in Lithuania.
Yevgeny Mataitis and Aristidas Tamosaitis, who were convicted in 2016, have been reunited with their families, Lithuanian spy chief Darius Jauniskis said.
Frode Berg, a Norwegian sentenced in Russia to 14 years in prison for espionage, was handed over to Norway’s embassy in Vilnius after he crossed into Lithuania.
Earlier in the day, Russians Nikolai Filipchenko and Sergey Moiseyenko were pardoned by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
The Baltic News Service said the spy swap took place at noon at a border checkpoint with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. No further details were available.
“We are happy that Frode Berg is now coming home to Norway as a free man,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.
“I would like to thank the Lithuanian authorities for their cooperation and for their efforts to free Berg.”
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said Norway had “worked systematically” to get Berg, a retired border inspector, freed since his arrest in Moscow in December 2017 on espionage charges for collecting information about Russian nuclear submarines.
Prosecutors asserted that he was caught with documents he had received from an employee of a military facility who was shadowed by Russian intelligence.
“The only thing we want to say now is that we are overjoyed and happy,” Berg’s daughter, Christina, told Norway’s VG newspaper.