Another North Carolina inmate has been exonerated by DNA evidence and freed after spending decades in prison for a wrongful murder conviction.

Joseph Sledge was set free Friday after a three-judge panel found that he was innocent of a 1976 killing of a mother and a daughter. The 70-year-old is the third inmate to be freed in less than six months in the state.

After he was released, Sledge said he was really looking forward to going home and doing the "most mundane" things: "Going home, relaxing and sleeping in a real bed."

The lawyer who took his case in 2004, Christine Mumma, said she had been on the verge of closing the case in 2012 when court clerks discovered a misplaced envelope containing hair from the crime scene while cleaning out an evidence vault.

The envelope contained hair, found on the victim and believed to be the attacker's, that turned out to be a key piece of evidence needed to do DNA testing, which wasn't available when Sledge went on trial in 1978.

"I understand those shelves were very high, but there was a ladder in that room," said Mumma, a lawyer for the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence.

The case was referred to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2013. Sledge is the eighth person exonerated after an investigation by the commission.

The commission is the only state-run agency of its kind and since 2007 it has reviewed and closed nearly 1,500 cases.

The judges considered the commission's investigative file, and a DNA expert highlighted lab tests in her testimony Friday. Meghan Clement of Cellmark Forensics said none of the evidence collected from the scene — hair, DNA and fingerprints — belonged to Sledge.

The key jailhouse informant, Herman Baker, signed an affidavit in 2013 recanting trial testimony. Baker said he lied at the 1978 ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

read full article...


President Obama arrived in India Sunday to showcase a deepening relationship with the country with hopes to lay the ground work for future agreements.

Obama is scheduled to sit with Indian leaders at a military parade Monday, becoming the first U.S. president to attend India's Republic Day celebrations. His appearance at the parade is meant to show solidarity between the two largest democratic nations, as China's presence grows in Asia.

The president's trip comes four months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Obama in Washington. It also coincides with escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, with both countries trading fire at its borders killing dozens of civilians.

The two leaders are expected to discuss how India and Pakistan can resume dialogue and reduce hostilities, officials told the Wall Street Journal.

The acceptance of Modi's invitation to Republic was a strong sign of renewed U.S. hope that Indian will be able to achieve a sustained economic development that is critical to competing against China.

Obama is also expected to discuss the progress made on getting the heavily polluted country to agree to curb carbon emissions. White House officials are hoping that the climate agreement between the U.S. and China will spur India to take similar steps. However, officials are not expecting that to happen.

Obama is also expected to push Modi to make changes to liability legislation in India that has prevented U.S. companies from capitalizing on a landmark civil nuclear agreement between the two countries in 2008.


Fox News

read full article...

Japan's prime minister said Sunday he was "speechless" after an online video purportedly showed an Islamic State militant killing one of the two Japanese hostages.

Shinzo Abe told Japanese broadcaster NHK the government is still reviewing the video, but it was likely authentic. Abe offered his condolences to the family and friends of 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, who was taken hostage in Syria last year.

Abe did not comment about the message in the latest video that demanded a prisoner exchange for the other hostage, journalist Kenji Goto.

"I am left speechless," he said, stressing he wants Goto released unharmed. "We strongly and totally criticize such acts."

Yukawa's father, Shoichi, said he hoped "deep in his heart" that the news of his son's killing was not true.

"If I am ever reunited with him, I just want to give him a big hug," he told a small group of journalists invited into his house.

President Obama condemned the "brutal murder." He said in a statement that the United States stands by Japan and calling for Goto's release.

The U.S. National Security Council said it has seen the video and that the intelligence community is working to confirm its authenticity.

“The United States strongly condemns (Islamic State’s) actions, and we call for the immediate release of all the remaining hostages,” said agency spokesman Patrick Ventrell.

The CIA also has confirmed it is aware of the video and is reviewing it.

The video message claims one hostage has been killed and demands a prisoner exchange for the other.

The Associated Press could not verify the contents of the message, which varied greatly from previous videos released by Islamic State, which now holds a third of both Syria and Iraq.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the audio was still being studied, but there was no reason to deny the authenticity of the video.

One militant on ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

read full article...


PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A Philadelphia taxi driver was tipped nearly $1,000 on a fare of less than $5 for a ride that lasted about two minutes, the taxi company said.

Freedom Taxi of Philadelphia said driver Oumar Maiga drove a man less than a mile last month and the passenger chose to pay the $4.31 fare using a credit card.

Everett Abitbol, co-founder of the company, said Maiga looked at the receipt and was shocked to see the customer had added a $989.98 tip.

He said the company waited 30 days for the payment to clear before making the announcement.

Abitbol said no one knows the identity of the passenger, who assured Maiga the tip was intentional.

"We've tried to get in touch with him, but the credit card company won't divulge his name," Abitbol told Philly.com. "The fare was not disputed. That's all they would say."

Abitbol said the passenger told Maiga he was going to "make it a great night" before giving the 23,000 percent tip.


UPI

read full article...


An Alabama judge sentenced a woman to 219 years in prison for her involvement in an incestuous sex ring accused of molesting children for years.

Wendy Holland, 35, showed no emotion as the judge condemned her to virtually a life sentence. She must serve 50 years before being considered for parole.

The jurors convicted Holland of sodomy, sexual abuse and other charges last month. Another defendant, William Brownlee, got a 20-year prison sentence. The 50-year-old man was convicted of sodomy and sexual abuse in the fall.

The two were among 11 people charged with sex crimes in wake of the 2012 disappearance of 19-year-old Brittney Wood, a suspected victim in the ring. Wood remains missing and is presumed dead.

Baldwin Council Circuit Judge Jody Bishop gave both Holland and Brownlee the maximum sentence and said each deserved more time. Each still faces additional charges involving other alleged victims.

In a letter read in court, the underage female victim in both cases said years of abuse left her traumatized. She has a hard time trusting anyone, gets angry easily and rarely feels safe.

"I was a little girl being held down and raped," wrote the victim, who was in court.

Police said the two were part of a group of relatives and friends who sexually abused children and swapped their own kids for years.

Holland is the widow of alleged group leader Donnie Holland. Donnie was Wood's uncle. The teen disappeared around the time Donnie was found with a gunshot wound to the head. His death was ruled a suicide.

Wendy and Donnie Holland's 22-year-old son Donald Paul Holland Jr. — charged with incest, rape and sexual abuse as another alleged participant in the ring — appeared before the judge in a closed hearing after his mother's sentencing.

He was seen being arrested and led away in handcuffs afterward, but the ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

read full article...


Dozens of terror suspects were arrested in Belgium, France, and Germany early Friday, a day after Belgian authorities said that they halted a plot to attack police officers by mere hours.

Eric Van der Sypt, a Belgian federal magistrate, told a news conference Friday in Brussels that 13 people had been detained in Belgium in connection with the plot, with another two arrested in neighboring France. He added that a dozen searches had led to the discovery of four military-style weapons including Kalashnikov assault rifles.

On Thursday, Belgian police had moved against a suspected terrorist hideout in the eastern town of Verviers. In the ensuing firefight, two terror suspects were killed, while a third was wounded and arrested.

At the time, officials said the militant group targeted in the raid included some who had returned from Syria. Authorities have previously said 300 Belgian residents have gone to fight with extremist Islamic formations in Syria; it is unclear how many have returned.

Authorities in Belgium signaled they were ready for more trouble by raising the national terror alert level from 2 to 3, the second-highest level. Prime Minister Charles Michel said the increase in the threat level was "a choice for prudence."

"There is no concrete or specific knowledge of new elements of threat," he said.

Meanwhile, French police arrested at least 12 people in anti-terrorism raids in three towns around Paris, the city prosecutor's office said early Friday.

The prosecutor's office said that the raids were targeting people with links to Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who attacked a kosher supermarket Jan. 9 and claimed ties to the Islamic State terror group. Police officials earlier told The Associated Press that they were seeking up to eight to 10 potential accomplices

Coulibaly was one of three gunmen who carried out a series of terror attacks that resulted in the deaths ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

read full article...


Papa John's Pizza is standing by a pizza delivery woman who opened fire Sunday on an armed robber in an act of self defense.

The pizza franchise told FoxNews.com Thursday the employee, who hasn't been named, will not be fired from the company.

The employee was making a delivery in Decatur, Ga., Sunday night when a man approached her vehicle, forcing her onto the ground at gunpoint, according to the DeKalb County Police Department. The woman, who had a gun in her pocket, was able to fire at the man while on the ground -- striking the alleged assailant, identified as 24-year-old Donquaz Stevenson, in the face.

Stevenson was later found in a neighbor's yard and arrested, according to police, who said the pizza delivery might have been a setup. Local media outlets reported that a second suspect carjacked the delivery woman's silver 2000 Honda Accord and remains on the run.

Stevenson was charged with armed robbery and was being treated for a gunshot wound at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

The delivery woman's mother had told WSB-TV her daughter is worried she may lose her job because she was carrying a firearm at work for protection.

While Papa John's prohibits employees -- including delivery drivers -- from carrying firearms on the job, the pizza giant said Thursday the woman would not be let go from the company. She instead will be reassigned to another role, according to the company.  

"The safety of Papa John's employees is a top priority for our company, " the company said in an email to FoxNews.com.

"Company policy prohibits employees from utilizing firearms in the performance of their duties.We plan no changes to our current policy, which is designed to protect customers and employees," the statement read. "Upon investigation and considering the specific facts of the situation, we have reassigned the ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

read full article...



HONG KONG –  The teenage face of Hong Kong's months-long democracy protests struck a defiant note as he turned himself in Friday at police request for possible arrest.

Joshua Wong, 18, flashed a victory sign to supporters while reporting to police headquarters with three other members of his student group.

They're among a number of activists and pro-democracy lawmakers who have been told to go to police to help with the investigation into street protests that authorities declared illegal.

Wong said he and the other group members were prepared to be arrested but would refuse to cooperate.

He vowed that there would be further "Umbrella Movement" protests to come and said any arrests "would just motivate more of the secondary school or university students to come to the street and join the action."

The student-led protesters shut down streets in three areas of the southern Chinese financial hub last fall to demand greater electoral freedom from the Hong Kong government than Beijing is willing to grant. The movement and its youthful leaders gained an initial surge in public support when police unleashed dozens of tear gas rounds against protesters that caught the world's attention. Some protesters used umbrellas to protect themselves, giving the movement a nickname.

But the protests gradually fizzled out as the government ignored activists' calls for the government to drop the Chinese government's requirement that all candidates in 2017 inaugural elections for top leader be screened by a Beijing-friendly panel.

After police cleared out the last protest camp in mid-December, they vowed to investigate and arrest the "principal instigators" within three months.

Fox News

read full article...


 A US woman had to be rescued after stripping naked and trying to climb down the chimney of her ex-husband's home.

Firefighters in California were called to a property in Woodcrest by the homeowner who was woken up by the woman's cries for help.

The mother of his three children had tried to open the front door at around 5am, reports CBS.

But when the 35-year-old failed to gain entry she climbed to the roof, removed all her clothes and tried to slide down the chimney.

But halfway down she found she couldn't move any more - and was forced to call for help at 5am.

Her ex-husband said he awoke to her cries for help and tried to pull her out from the roof but nearly fell off so called 911.

Firemen broke open the fireplace and after a delicate two-hour operation got the woman free. Her identity has not been released.

The woman's ex was quoted as saying: "I don't like the way she's acting or what she's doing. That's not good for my kids."

Orange

read full article...

QUINCY, Wash., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- A dog that went missing from a family in Washington was found over 2,000 miles across the country before reuniting with owners Friday.

Penny, a 7-month-old female Vizsla, went missing just over two weeks ago in Quincy, Wash. In that time, the Brown family, who owned Penny, set up a Facebook page titled "Bring Penny Home for Christmas" in order to spread word about the missing canine.

On Friday Penny was reunited with the Browns after a veterinarian in Pittsburgh, Pa. -- 2,400 miles away -- discovered the dog's identification chip. According to the family, Penny and been taken there after being picked up by a passing truck driver.

"(The truck driver) said he thought she was a stray and he was going to drop her off at the nearest police station or animal hospital, but he said he couldn't find one," Kendra Brown told KOMO, noting that phone contact had at some point been established with the man.

After driving Penny through California and Nebraska, the man allegedly told Brown he put the dog on a truck back to Washington state but didn't have any details about the vehicle. He then drove the dog to Pittsburgh and eventually took her to a vet.

"We're not sure why he did tell us that lie," Brown told KOMO. "Maybe he wanted to keep her, and then eventually he would give her up."

Alaska Airlines reportedly offered Penny a free trip after hearing about her discovery. All told, according to KOMO, the canine journeyed 6,000 miles across varying parts of the country.

UPI

read full article...