Saturday, December 7, 2013

"They only come to America for the opportunities": Man linked to Mexican cartel gets 21-year sentence

December 7, 2013

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A man whose brother is believed to be a prolific cartel hit man was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted murder in what authorities said was a plot to kill a mother and son in Southern California who owed a drug debt.

Jorge Sillas apologized in San Diego court on Friday. His attorney, Paul Pfingst, said the 30-year-old American citizen was influenced by his older brother and noted his clean criminal history.

"Older brothers do have a disproportionate impact on younger brothers," said Pfingst, a former district attorney.

Sillas was working on the orders of the Arellano Felix cartel, one of Mexico's oldest and once one of its most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to prosecutors. They say his brother, Juan Sillas, was one of Tijuana's most violent hit men when he was arrested in 2011.

Juan Sillas has not been charged in the murder-for-hire case, but the criminal complaint said he offered to pay $50,000 for the killings. U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite him from Mexico in an unrelated case.

Jorge Sillas, a U.S. citizen, and two other defendants planned to kill the mother and son said to owe money for drugs, according to prosecutors. The plot was foiled when authorities raided the home of Jorge Sillas in Palmdale in February 2011, seizing two AR-15 rifles, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and about $20,000 in cash.

Sillas and Victor Gonzalez pleaded guilty to attempted murder. Gonzalez, 32, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison. A third defendant, Danny Cepallo, was sentenced in June to five years in state prison.

The elder Sillas — known as "Ruedas," or "Wheels" in English — is suspected by authorities of being responsible for many killings in Tijuana.

U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite him to face charges in North Dakota involving the 2005 killing of a man who was shot nine times in front of two small children over a soured drug deal.

Juan Sillas boasted that he was responsible for killing 20 to 30 people a month, said West Fargo, N.D., police Detective Brad Berg. All but two of 66 defendants in the North Dakota case have been convicted.


Just in Time for Obamcare: New law allows HIV-infected organ donation

December 7, 2013

Typical bear liver

President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday legislation that would allow HIV-infected people to donate their organs to other HIV-infected people for research aimed at eventually making such transplants routine.

The HIV Organ Policy Equity, or HOPE, Act lifted a ban on any HIV-infected organ transplants. That ban dated from 1984, when the disease was new, not fully understood and virtually always a death sentence. No other disease, including cancer, universally put an organ off limits.

But now those with HIV live normal lives, managing the disease as a chronic condition, and they need transplants because of their condition and other diseases, said Dr. Dorry L. Segev, an associate professor of surgery and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who helped champion the law.

Segev led a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation in 2011 that found an estimated 500 HIV-infected patients would be eligible for transplants of kidneys, livers and other organs every year. Allowing the transplants also would shorten the waiting list for noninfected patients.

"We expect hundreds of lives to be saved every year because of this," Segev said in a statement. "For many years, we have been forced to forgo perfectly transplantable organs. Now we can give patients with HIV the opportunity to live longer and better lives by transplanting these organs. It will be a profound change."

The bill's bipartisan supporters included Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a Hopkins anesthesiologist who became the first Republican to support the measure.

"This legislation gives new hope to all of those waiting for organ transplants," said Harris in a statement. "As a physician, I have seen firsthand the life-saving joy that receiving an organ can bring to patients and their families. I am encouraged by the bipartisan support this common sense change to an outdated law has received."

Other doctors and associations supported the law, which sets up safeguards and parameters for clinical trials. Once the research supports the safety and efficacy of such transplants, they could become the standard of care for HIV-infected patients, according to the HIV Medicine Association.

There are more than 120,000 people on the waiting list for organs, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the private, nonprofit organization that manages the nation's organ transplant system. An estimated 6,500 people a year die waiting for one, said Dr. Joel Gallant, association chair and associate medical director of specialty services at Southwest CARE in New Mexico.

"This legislation will significantly reduce that number for both HIV-infected and HIV-negative patients because of the larger pool of organs available," he said in a statement. "Passage of the HOPE Act will also reduce costs to Medicare for dialysis treatment of end-stage kidney disease, while protecting public health by maintaining provisions that are critical to safe organ procurement and allocation."


Health exchange director resigns

December 7, 2013

The director of Maryland's health insurance exchange resigned Friday amid ongoing technical problems and questions about a Caribbean vacation she took while the online marketplace faltered.
Rebecca Pearce, hired two years ago to build a $107 million exchange, leaves her post as officials struggle to repair the system that launched Oct. 1.

The exchange's rocky start and low enrollment have become ammunition for political attacks on Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was tasked by the governor with overseeing the state's implementation of the federal health care reform law.

The board of the Maryland Heath Benefit Exchange accepted Pearce's resignation during an emergency session Friday night. In a statement, Joshua Sharfstein, the state health secretary and board chairman, said Pearce "worked tirelessly and with tremendous dedication."

Pearce, whose starting salary in 2011 was $175,000, will be replaced by on an interim basis by Carolyn Quattrocki, a top adviser to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

As state lawmakers grilled Sharfstein on Nov. 26 on why the health exchange was still broken, Pearce was on a week's vacation in the Cayman Islands. During the trip, she could not be reached by phone, email or text, officials confirmed Friday.

Brown said in an interview Friday that he did not know Pearce planned to leave town until she was already gone. He called her absence during the week of Thanksgiving a "very" big problem. "We just launched a staff surge and we needed all hands on deck," he said. "Now is not the time to take a vacation."

As of Friday, 3,758 people had enrolled in private insurance through the exchange. Maryland was one of 14 states that chose to build their own exchanges instead of relying on the federal government. State officials had hoped to enroll 150,000 by the end of March.

O'Malley said last week he wanted the exchange’s major problems resolved by mid-December, leaving just one week for residents to sign up for insurance that will take effect Jan. 1.

As recently as Tuesday, Pearce appeared in charge of the exchange and repairing the technical problems that have prevented people from signing up for policies. At a hearing in Annapolis, she said the state still hoped to reach its enrollment goals.

Behind the scenes, Brown and other officials said, much of Pearce's day-to-day control of the exchange had recently been handed to Information Technology Secretary Isabel FitzGerald.

While Pearce, as the head of a quasi-public institution, was not required to ask permission to take vacation, the lieutenant governor's political rivals in the race to succeed O’Malley faulted Brown for her absence.

"Lieutenant Governor Brown's poor leadership and mismanagement is deeply troubling to all of us who want to see Obamacare succeed," said Democrat Douglas F. Gansler's campaign spokesman Bob Wheelock.

Republican Harford County Executive David Craig questioned the O’Malley-Brown administration's commitment to resolving problems with the exchange.

"One has to wonder how someone so critical to addressing numerous technical problems is free to take exotic vacations at this time," Craig said. "One does not abandon their post during a crisis, and this is unacceptable."

O'Malley's pledge to reshape the exchange and some of its leadership moves occurred while Pearce was in the Caribbean.

"That's pretty bad timing," said Donald Norris, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "If you are responsible for something that is failing, you don't bail out on it until you fix it."

Pearce did not return a call seeking comment on her resignation or her trip.

Earlier this year, in describing her role in implementing the Affordable Care Act, Pearce said, "It's not very often you get a chance to change history." She said that enrolling thousands of the state's 800,000 uninsured residents for coverage starting in 2014 was the final step in implementing President Obama’s signature legislation: "We've built the present, wrapped it, and now we're trying to put the bow on it."

Sharfstein, the state health secretary and chair of the board overseeing the exchange, declined to discuss Pearce’s vacation and whether he knew about it in advance. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokesman Dori Henry said that Pearce’s trip included three days state government was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"She's basically the CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation," said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican. "I suspect in the private sector when there's a lot on the line, that a CEO wouldn't disappear during a major crisis."

Pearce answers to an executive board that was appointed by O'Malley and is chaired by Sharfstein, who told lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee last week that he could not predict when the exchange would be free of glitches.

Sen. John Astle, an Annapolis Democrat and vice chair of the committee, said that taking a vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday was not a big deal, especially when other officials could speak on her behalf. "I didn't even miss her, to tell you the truth," he said.

But others were surprised to learn a key player was not around.

Republican Sen. David Brinkley, the minority leader, said, "As long as this thing is dysfunctional, I think there's a reasonable expectation from the taxpayers that the people overseeing it would be working as hard as possible to fix it."


85-Year-Old Veteran ‘Deported’ From North Korea on the Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2013

(CNN) — Merrill Newman — the 85-year-old American detained by North Korean authorities earlier this fall — has been “deported,” North Korea’s state news agency reported early Saturday.
The KCNA report stated that investigators determined that “Newman entered the DPRK with a wrong understanding of it and perpetrated a hostile act against it.”
“Taking into consideration his admittance of the act committed by him on the basis of his wrong understanding (and the) apology made by him for it, his sincere repentance of it and his advanced age and health condition, the above-said institution deported him from the country from a humanitarian viewpoint,” the official North Korean report added.
Newman was taken off a plane in Pyongyang by North Korean authorities in October, following a brief trip to the isolated East Asian nation, his family said.
Weeks later, state news released a story and video showing the Palo Alto, California, resident — and Korean War veteran — apologizing for crimes against North Korea.
After that report came out, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S. government was “deeply concerned” about Newman and Kenneth Bae, another American being held in North Korea.


Predictable: No evidence of FBI investigation into IRS targeting of conservative groups UPDATE

December 7, 2013

Six months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced they would launch an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative and tea party groups, a lawyer who represents 41 such groups said they have yet to be contacted by the FBI and there is no visible evidence an investigation is underway.
“It is extremely troubling that after more than six months since Lois Lerner revealed the targeting scheme aimed at conservative and Tea Party groups that there is no visible evidence of an investigation taking place,” Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), told the Capitol City Project in a written statement. “From the beginning, the Obama Administration – including the White House – assured the American people that there would be an investigation and that those responsible for this unlawful scheme would be held accountable. It appears that is simply not the case. To date, none of our 41 clients has been contacted by the FBI, the Department of Justice, or any other investigative agency. To assert that an investigation is underway with no contact with the organizations that were targeted is absurd.”
Mr. Sekulow added that instead of conducting an actual investigation into the IRS’s wrongdoing, the Obama administration is taking the opposite approach and implementing more regulations against free speech.
“Instead of conducting an investigation and interviewing those who were targeted, the Obama Administration apparently believes the next step should be the implementation of even more regulations – which the Treasury Department announced last week – proposed regulations that place the free speech of Americans at even greater risk.”
He continued, “The proposed new regulations is nothing more than a feeble attempt by the Obama Administration to justify its own wrong-doing with the IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups. Instead of holding those responsible for the unlawful targeting scheme accountable for their actions, the Obama Administration is determined to further limit the free speech of Americans by attempting to change constitutional practices that are decades old. With this move, the Obama Administration opens a new front in its war against political dissent. We will file comments with the IRS opposing these new regulations.”
Despite this, Sekulow says they will continue to move forward with the legal challenge.
“This latest development does nothing to alter our lawsuit on behalf of 41 organizations challenging the IRS. We continue to move forward with our legal challenge. For those clients who have been in limbo for as long as three years waiting for the IRS to act on their tax-exempt applications, this development is disturbing and unacceptable. The IRS is now attempting to change the rules to further restrict their free speech even before it acts on pending applications.”
This comes on the heels of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cali.) saying the FBI is stonewalling inquiries into the IRS’s targeting of the groups.
Cleta Mitchell, an attorney representing nine tea party groups who were targeted by the IRS, told Capitol City Project that none of her clients have been contacted by the FBI.  To her knowledge, no tea party group has been contacted thus far. She also questions whether there is an actual investigation.
“None of my clients – and to my knowledge, no tea party group – has been contacted by the FBI regarding the IRS scandal.  In fact, I am highly doubtful that any FBI investigation is even underway, despite what Obama said to the country on May 15,” Mitchell stated in an e-mail.

"Free Healthcare" Update: Self-rewarding Liberal whose mindset entitled compensation for self-righteousness suddenly becomes a victim of the law

December 7, 2013

A.G.: Queens nonprofit executive stole grant money 

ALBANY—A nonprofit executive accused of pocketing hundreds of thousands of local, state and federal grant funds intended for public services in New York City was arrested, the state attorney general's office announced Thursday.
Dorothy Ogundu, president of Angeldocs, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation billed as a health clinic for the poor, allegedly spent portions of 12 government grants to pay the mortgage and utilities on a commercial property she owned, make improvements to that property to increase its value, purchase and ship vehicles to Nigeria and make other personal purchases. The funds were intended to improve the clinic facility in Queens and help her operate it.
“Dorothy Ogundu pocketed hundreds of thousands of city, state and federal taxpayer dollars intended to help those who need it most with their health care costs,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement Thursday. “We will use every tool at our disposal to crack down on anyone abusing the public trust.”
Of the $373,000 in government grants Ogundu, a Nigerian doctor, is accused of stealing, $91,000 was from New York City, $87,000 was from the state and $195,000 was from the federal government.
Schneiderman has $373,000 of her assets, including bank accounts and real estate. He is seeking triple damages and penalties, totaling more than $500,000, for violation of the False Claims Act.
The investigation was a collaboration of the attorney general's office, the state comptroller's office and the New York City Department of Investigation.

Corbett seeks US nod for alternative Medicaid plan

December 7, 2013

Harrisburg, Pa - Governor Tom Corbett will begin the formal process of seeking approval to bring billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars to Pennsylvania to extend health insurance to half-a-million working poor.
The process began Friday with the online posting of Corbett's plan. His administration also will hold six hearings around Pennsylvania and take public comment on the plan through Jan. 13 before it submits it to the federal government, possibly in February.
Under President Barack Obama's signature health care law, the federal government promises to foot the lion's share of the bill for any state that expands Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.
However, Corbett is a critic of Medicaid and instead wants to use the expansion money for private insurance plans, an idea the federal government approved in Arkansas.

Police get tip about mysterious pipe bomber

December 7, 2013

Updated: 12/06/2013 6:39 PM | Created: 12/06/2013 5:20 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The hunt for Albuquerque’s mysterious motorcycle pipe-bomber has led police to the capture of another pipe-bomb suspect – but they say he's not the one they've been looking for.
Investigators think the man they took into custody Thursday night in the South Valley may not have any connection to the bomb attacks on two probation and parole offices, but he will still face federal charges of his own. A tip led a swarm of SWAT officers to a property near Rio Bravo and 2nd Street, where they found a man passed out on drugs and three pipe bombs on the property.
Investigators wondered if this could be the motorcycle-riding mystery man who flung two pipe bombs at the state Probation and Parole Office near UNM on Monte Vista NE on Nov. 21. Their conclusion: It wasn't him.
"It's great that we got these devices off the street, but we're going to continue to look for the person that we believe is responsible for this," said an undercover state Corrections agent whose identity must not be revealed. "We don't believe that this individual is the same person that threw the devices here."
Federal, state and local officers formed a task force this week to coordinate the hunt for the motorcycle bomber. They have reward money and people with information can remain anonymous.
"If anybody has information related to the pipe-bombing incident here at the Probation and Parole office, there's $6,000 up for grabs for that person," the agent said. "Any information that we can get is greatly appreciated."
If you have a tip, call Crimestoppers at 843-STOP.
Agents say the man they busted Thursday night was wanted on other charges and is likely to face federal charges for the pipe-bombs they found – as soon as he's released from the hospital where he’s being trated for what appears to be a drug overdose.

Comm-u-fornia: Moonbeam Appoints 18 New Judges to California Courts

December 7, 2013

(CN) - The California governor's office on Thursday announced the appointments of 18 Superior Court judges, eight of them in Los Angeles County - and Riverside County's first Native American judge.

     Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Deborah S. Brazil, Carl H. Moor, Connie R. Quinones, Armen Tamzarian, Sergio C. Tapia, Lee W. Tsao, Frank M. Tavelman and Joel Wallenstein to the Los Angeles County bench.

     Brazil, 54, of Los Angeles, has been a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles since 1997. She earned her J.D. at Southwester Law School.

     Moor, 52, of Los Angeles, has been a partner at Munger Tolles and Olson since 2003. He got his J.D. from Yale Law School.

     Quinones, 49, of Lakewood, has worked at the L.A. County Alternate Public Defender's Office since 1996, the last seven years as a senior trial attorney. She got her law degree from the Western State College of Law.

     Tamzarian, 47, of South Pasadena, has been a senior appellate court attorney at the California Court of Appeal, Second District since 2008. He earned his law degree at Southwester Law School.

     Tapia, 45, of Alhambra, ha worked at the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender's Office since 2001. He got his J.D. from the University of Iowa.

     Tsao, 46, of Lakewood, has worked at the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office since 1997. He got his law degree from USC.

     Tavelman, 47, of Los Angeles, has been a deputy district attorney at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office since 1999. He got his J.D. at Southwestern Law School.

     Wallenstein, 53, of Long Beach, has been a commissioner at the Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2005. He got his law degree at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law.

     Elsewhere, Thomas A. Glazier, Martha K. Gooding and Robert A. Knox were appointed to the Orange County bench.

     Glazier, 53, of Lake Forest, is an assistant district attorney in Orange County. He got his J.D. at Brigham Young University.

     Gooding, 59, of Newport Beach, has been a partner at Jones Day since 2011. She got her law degree at UC-Berkeley.

     Knox, 57, of Irvine, was an assistant public defender in Orange County for 29 years. He earned his law degree at Pepperdine.

     Sunshine Sykes was appointed to the Riverside County bench. Sykes, 39, of Riverside, has been a deputy county counsel at the Riverside County Office of County Counsel since 2005. She got her B.A. and J.D. at Stanford.

     Sykes, a member of the Navajo Nation, will be the court's first Native American judge.

     Khymberli S.Y. Apaloo was appointed to the bench in San Bernardino County. Apaloo, 43, of Rancho Cucamonga, has been a commissioner at San Bernardino County Superior Court since 2012. She got her J.D. at New York University School of Law.

     Michael B. Sheltzer was appointed to Tulare County Superior Court.

     Sheltzer, 57, of Visalia, has been public defender at the Tulare County Public Defender's Office since 2002. He earned his J.D. at Golden Gate University Law School.

     Vanessa W. Vallarta was appointed in Monterey County. Vallarta, 52, of Salinas, has been city attorney for Salinas since 2005. She got her J.D. from Stanford.

     Kate P. Segerstrom was appointed to a judgeship in Tuolumne County. Segerstrom, 58, of Sonora, has been in private practice since 2000. She got her J.D. from the University of the Pacific.

     Ethan P. Schulman was appointed in San Francisco County. Schulman, 56, of Mill Valley, has been a partner at Crowing and Moring since 2009. He got his J.D. at UC-Berkeley.

     Steven Lapham, 60, of Gold River, was appointed to the Sacramento County bench. Lapham has been an assistant U.S. attorney at the Eastern District of California since 1984. He got his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

     Superior Court judgeships pay $181,292 in California.

Man must pay $50k for breaking promise to marry

December 7, 2013

A Georgia man is learning the hard way that you need to keep your promises. A court has ruled that he must pay $50,000 for breaking his promise to marry his former fiancee.
According to, the state's court of appeals has ruled that Christopher Ned Kelley must compensate his former fiancee, Melissa Cooper, after first promising to marry her, but then ruining the relationships by allegedly cheating on her twice.
According to court documents, Kelley had given Cooper an engagement ring worth approximately $10,000, lived with her for more than a decade and had a child together. 
Cooper then quit her job to raise the couple's children, thinking Kelley would support the new family.
But when Cooper found out that Kelley had cheated on her for at least the second time, she asked him to move out and sued him for fraud and a "breach of promise to marry."
As part of his defense, Kelley tried to claim his promise to marry couldn't be enforced partly because the nature of the couple's relationship was based based on an illegal pact. 
Kelley's defense essentially claimed their relationship was a form of prostitution, where Kelley was simply paying Cooper for sexual relations.
He also claimed in court that he never really intended to marry her, "I never initiated the concept of marriage with her, outside of giving her that ring" and "I never said the words 'will you marry me' to her."
A trial court ruled in Cooper's favor, awarding damages and attorneys' fees totaling $50,000. Kelley's appeal of that ruling was rejected by the appeals court in November.

AP shares original news of attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2013

The destroyer USS Shaw explodes Dec. 7, 1941, after being hit by bombs during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Saturday marks the 72nd anniversary of the attack that brought the United States into World War II.

EDITOR'S NOTE - On Dec. 7, 1941, Eugene Burns, AP's chief of bureau in Honolulu, couldn't get out the urgent news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which drew the U.S. into World War II, because the military had already taken control of all communication lines. In Washington, AP editor William Peacock and staff got word of the attack from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's press secretary. In the language and style used by journalists of his era, including the use of a disparaging word to describe the Japanese that was in common use, Peacock dictated the details of the announcement. Seventy-two years after their original publication, the AP is making the dispatches available to its subscribers.

 WASHINGTON - White House says Japs attack Pearl Harbor


WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (AP) - President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from the air.
The attack of the Japanese also was made on all naval and military "activities" on the island of Oahu.
The president's brief statement was read to reporters by Stephen Early, presidential secretary. No further details were given immediately.
At the time of the White House announcement, the Japanese ambassadors, Kichisaburo Nomura and Saburo Kurusu, were at the State Department.
WASHINGTON - Second air attack reported on Army and Navy bases in Manila.

First lead Japanese

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 - (AP) - Japanese air attacks on the American naval stronghold at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and on defense facilities at Manila were announced today by the White House.

Only this terse announcement came from President Roosevelt immediately, but with it there could be no doubt that the Far Eastern situation had at last exploded, that the United States was at war, and that the conflict which began in Europe was spreading over the entire world.
This disclosure had been accepted generally as an indication this country had all but given up hope that American-Japanese difficulties, arising from Japan's aggression in the Far East, could be resolved by ordinary diplomatic procedure.
Second lead Japanese

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 - (AP) - Japanese airplanes today attacked American defense bases at Hawaii and Manila, and President Roosevelt ordered the Army and Navy to carry out undisclosed orders prepared for the defense of the United States.
Announcing the president's action for the protection of American territory, Presidential Secretary Stephen Early declared that so far as is known now the attacks were made wholly without warning - when both nations were at peace - and were delivered within an hour or so of the time that the Japanese ambassador had gone to the State Department to hand to the secretary of state Japan's reply to the secretary's memo of the 26th.