January 29, 2013 Associated Press
MEXICO CITY -- Mexican officials say they have broken up a bizarre cult that allegedly ran a sex-slavery ring among its followers on the U.S. border.
Mexico's National Immigration Institute says 14 foreigners have been detained in the raid on a house near Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas.
Those detained include six Spaniards, and two people each from Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela. One person from Argentina and one from Ecuador were also detained, the institute announced Tuesday.
The institute said Tuesday that 10 Mexicans were also found at the house in filthy conditions, and are presumably among the victims of the cult.
The institute said the sect's leaders called themselves "The Defenders of Christ" and made members of the cult pay quotas, which they apparently paid with forced labor or sex.
Jan. 29, 2013 Fox News/AP
CINCINNATI – A former Ohio police captain who has spent nearly 15 years in prison in his ex-wife's killing was exonerated Tuesday by a judge who said that new DNA tests proved his innocence and that no reasonable jury that saw the test results would have convicted him.
Doug Prade should be set free because the new DNA results are "clear and convincing," said Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter in Akron.
Hunter could have ordered a new trial for the 66-year-old Prade, or found that the DNA results weren't strong enough and allowed his conviction and sentence of life in prison to stand.
Prade's attorney, Carrie Wood, said when she called Prade to give him the news, he broke down in tears and couldn't speak for a while.
"This was a very humble and thankful Doug," said Wood, who works for the Cincinnati-based Ohio Innocence Project and has been working for years to get Prade freed.
"There was no `I told you so,"' Wood said. "There was only joy that it was finally recognized by the court and that he might get to come home to his family today."
Jan. 29, 2013 BBC
A Ukrainian court has convicted a former police chief of murdering journalist Georgy Gongadze in 2000, a crime which rocked the country.
The court in Kiev found that Olexiy Pukach had killed the journalist, then cut off his head. It sentenced Pukach to life imprisonment.
Pukach confessed but said he had acted on the orders of the late Interior Minister, Yuri Kravchenko.
The murder sparked protests against the president at the time, Leonid Kuchma.
An attempt to prosecute Mr Kuchma for ordering the killing collapsed in December 2011 when a judge ruled that secret audio recordings which apparently incriminated him could not be used as evidence, as they had been obtained through "illegal means".
Mr Kuchma has always denied involvement in the journalist's murder.
A few months before his death, Georgy Gongadze founded the news website Ukrainskaya Pravda, which was sharply critical of the Kuchma presidency.
Jan. 29, 2013 Associated Press
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A decade after a raging fire swept through Southern California's San Bernardino foothills, an arsonist was sentenced to death for causing the deaths of five men who died of heart attacks.
It was an unusual legal interpretation of murder likely to be debated in appellate courts.
A lawyer for Rickie Lee Fowler, 31, suggested in arguments Monday that he could not have foreseen that anyone would die and said there was lingering doubt about whether he threw a road flare that was believed to have started the blaze. A second man was seen with him that night.
Superior Court Judge Michael Smith imposed the punishment recommended by a jury in spite of the fact that the victims did not die by Fowler's hand. They died of heart attacks allegedly brought on by the stress of evacuating their homes as flames raged.
Smith had the option of reducing Fowler's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He declined.
"Today, after nearly ten years, justice has now been secured for the victims and their families, and those whose lives were affected by the actions of Rickie Lee Fowler," said District Attorney Michael Ramos.
Fowler was convicted in August of five counts of first-degree murder and two counts of arson.
Prosecutors said Fowler lit the fire in 2003 out of rage after he was thrown out of a house where his family was staying.
The blaze scorched more than 142 square miles in October 2003 and destroyed 1,000 buildings as it burned for nine days in the foothills above San Bernardino. The men died after their homes burned or as they tried to evacuate.
Jan. 28, 2013 Associated Press
ABUJA, Nigeria — A man who formerly helped oversee Nigeria's police pension program pleaded guilty Monday to stealing $145 million, but walked out of court a free man after agreeing to a plea bargain that saw him pay only a fraction of it back.
The plea deal given to John Yakubu Yusufu and read out in court sparked immediate anger across Nigeria, a nation where many feel government officials pilfer pension funds and oil revenue without any fear of prosecution. Yusufu will pay only a $14,000 fine, forfeit some properties and pay about $2 million in restitution, something that the nation's top anti-corruption agency immediately criticized.
Justice Mohammed Talba, who agreed to the plea deal in a Federal High Court, sentenced Yusufu to serve two years in prison. However, Talba said Yusufu could pay the fine and the restitution, which also includes turning over 32 properties he allegedly purchased with the stolen money.
In asking for the plea deal, Yusufu's defense lawyer, Theodore Bala Maiyakim, said his client had a serious heart condition.
"He has saved the time of my Lord and being a first offender, with no previous record of conviction, I urge the court to temper justice with mercy and sentence him with least possible terms," Maiyakim asked, according to an account provided by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs, however, called for Yusufu to serve prison time to "send out the message that the era of stealing public funds with impunity is gone."
Jan. 27, 2013 NBC News
Two days after Christmas 2003: A man walking his dog through the woods on Whidbey Island in Washington state spots a yellow Chevy sports utility vehicle, its door open, its driver with a bullet in the head.
The victim is Russel Douglas, 32, and when police search his cell phone records, according to court documents, they find that he has recently been in touch with Peggy Sue Thomas – a 6-foot-tall, single mother of two who was crowned Ms. Washington in 2000.
She won the evening gown division at the national competition, where she proclaimed, according to a profile in the Seattle Weekly, that the greatest ethical challenge facing women was “raising children with morals, even with all the violence, sex and drugs in the media.”
Years after she graced the national stage with that sobering message, prosecutors alleged that she lured Russel Douglas, the estranged husband of a longtime friend, to the woods under the pretense of giving him a Christmas gift. There, investigators claimed, her lover shot Douglas point-blank.
Jan. 27, 2013 Huffington Post
A grand jury voted to indict JonBenet Ramsey's parents in 1999 on charges of child abuse resulting in death but the prosecutor never signed the indictment, according to a new report by The Daily Camera.
Then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter told media back then that he did not believe his office had enough evidence to file any charges, though the Ramsey family remained prime suspects for years before being absolved in 2008.
Child abuse resulting in death charged with "knowingly and recklessly" is a Class II felony that could have resulted in up to 48 years in prison.
On Dec. 26, 1996, 6-year-old JonBenet was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in the basement of her family home. A ransom note from an anonymous group of individuals "that represent a foreign faction" asking for $118,000 in exchange for the safe return of JonBenet was found just hours before, but no call ever came from a kidnapper and it was never linked to a murderer.
The entire Ramsey family was cleared of any involvement in the murder of JonBenet back in 2008, thanks to then newly discovered DNA evidence, according to 9News. Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mother, died 2 years earlier in 2006 of ovarian cancer, tragically, she was still considered a possible suspect when she died.
Beginning in 2010, investigators reopened the case and launched a fresh round of interviews with witnesses that could provide more insight into the murder, according to ABC News, but nothing fruitful came of those interviews.
The DNA evidence still points to an "unexplained third party" that serves as a vague lead for authorities still pursuing the case, TIME magazine reported.
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