Chicago man sentenced to prison in Bali suitcase murder plot | Reuters

Robert Ryan Justin Bibbs, 26, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit the foreign murder of a U.S. national.

He was sentenced to the nine-year federal prison term during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Sheila von Wiese-Mack was bludgeoned to death in her Bali hotel room on Aug. 12, 2014. Her body was then crammed into a suitcase and driven away in a taxi, prosecutors say.

Bibbs’ cousin, Tommy Schaefer, and his girlfriend, Heather Mack, were convicted in 2015 in Indonesia, where he is serving an 18-year sentence and she is serving 10 years. Mack had a baby girl in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bolling Haxall said in court papers filed ahead of the sentencing that Bibbs had “elected to push the plot forward, rather than stop it or extricate himself from it.”

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Bibbs acknowledged he was aware Schaefer and Mack planned to kill the woman’s mother and advised Schaefer on how to get away with it, believing that he would share a portion of von Wiese-Mack’s estate.

Mack and her mother, who had a troubled relationship, were staying at a luxury hotel, the St. Regis Bali resort, in August 2014, prosecutors say. Schaefer joined them, surprising von Wiese-Mack, who did not know he was coming to Indonesia.

Schaefer subsequently sent a text message to Bibbs in the United States and the two discussed killing the mother, with Bibbs suggesting drowning her or suffocating her by sitting on her face with a pillow, prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Trott)

U.S. state, local government lawsuits over opioids face uphill battle | Reuters

BOSTON A growing number of U.S. states, counties and cities are filing lawsuits accusing drug companies of deceptively marketing opioid painkillers to downplay their addictiveness, but some lawyers say the industry’s highly regulated nature could pose a hurdle to their success.

Ohio on Wednesday became the latest, and largest, state or local government to bring an opioid lawsuit, suing Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc unit, Endo International Plc, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd’s and Allergan Plc.

The lawsuit seeks to recover money the state and its residents spent on unnecessary opioid prescriptions, as well as costs associated with addiction treatment. The five companies have all denied the allegations.

Mississippi, counties in New York and California and the city of Chicago have filed similar lawsuits against the opioid makers, and plaintiffs lawyers say more are on the way.

Some of those lawyers think the number of lawsuits could eventually snowball, resulting in an outcome similar to the $206 billion settlement tobacco companies reached with 46 states in 1998.

But some defense lawyers note that opioids, unlike cigarettes at the time, are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In their view, judges and juries could defer to the agency’s approval of the companies’ opioid products as safe and effective for treating chronic pain and of the drugs’ warning labels that disclosed addiction-related risks.

Jodi Avergun, a former chief of staff of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and now a defense lawyer with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, said the FDA’s role approving the drugs was a “fundamental weakness” of the lawsuits.

“I think at the end of the day they’re fairly difficult cases for the plaintiffs to win,” said Avergun.

In 2015, the judge overseeing the lawsuit against the five drugmakers by California’s Santa Clara and Orange counties halted the case out of concern it would interfere with FDA studies related to the risks of long-term opioid treatment.

The stay was recently partially lifted to allow for settlement talks, among other things. Teva last week became the first company in the case to settle, paying $1.6 million.

Assistant County Counsel Danny Chou said the deal’s size reflected Teva’s small opioid market share. Talks with other defendants are ongoing, and the county will file a revised lawsuit if no settlement is reached, he said.

Carl Tobias, a professor at Richmond School of Law, said FDA-approved warning labels and the role of doctors in prescribing medication can insulate pharmaceutical companies from liability for failing to warn of a drug’s risks.

But he noted Ohio’s lawsuit claimed the companies used advertising in medical journals and marketing presentations to downplay the risks of opioids.

In announcing the lawsuit, Ohio Attorney General DeWine argued the drugmakers’ deception continued “despite the warnings in the small print of their very own drug labels and package inserts which clearly contradict their marketing.”

“You can give a great warning but undercut it, and that can go to the fraud point,” Tobias said.

In September, the federal judge overseeing Chicago’s opioid lawsuit allowed the case to proceed after finding the city alleged sufficient facts to back its claim that the companies deceived healthcare providers.

Fraudulent marketing was also at issue a decade ago when Purdue paid more than $600 million and pleaded guilty to misbranding the opioid drug OxyContin by falsely touting it as less addictive than rival products.

Along with their arguments based on FDA approval, the drug companies are also taking aim at state and local governments’ use of private plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring opioid lawsuits in exchange for a percentage of any settlement or judgment.

Five law firms are representing Ohio on a contingency-fee basis.

Drugmakers have argued their constitutional due process rights are violated when profit-seeking private lawyers, as opposed to public servants, pursue government cases seeking large damages.

The companies scored a victory in 2016 when a judge invalidated one such agreement between former New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

Now on appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the ruling effectively blocked the state from filing a lawsuit. A similar bid is underway to invalidate a contingency fee deal between the law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy and New York’s Suffolk County.

Paul Hanly, of Simmons Hanly Conroy, said the drug companies were making a “completely frivolous argument” that would not deter opioid litigation.

He is representing three other New York counties in opioid lawsuits and preparing to bring lawsuits on behalf of several more.

“What we’re seeing is a feeding frenzy as plaintiffs’ lawyers are looking around and seeing this high-profile litigation and are clamoring to get in,” Hanly said.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Anthony Lin and Lisa Shumaker)

Pilots after Pence plane incident thought careers over: transcript | Reuters

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON The pilot and first officer of the plane carrying U.S. Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence that skidded off a runway in October 2016 thought the incident would end their careers, according to documents released on Thursday.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board published transcripts of the cockpit voice recorders from the incident in which the Boeing 737-700 operated by Eastern Air Lines Group ran off the runway at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

There were 37 passengers on the plane, including Pence, his wife, Karen, daughter Charlotte and 11 crew. The plane was coming from Fort Dodge, Iowa, where Pence, who was elected vice president in November’s election, had participated in a campaign event.

The plane was stopped by a crushable type of concrete runway, stopping the aircraft’s movement. No one was injured.

“My career just ended,” one of the pilots said. The other responded: “Mine too.”

One added after landing: “Unfortunately I should have gone straight ahead and we would have been fine, when I made the turn is when I screwed up.” The other pilot responded: “I was fighting you because I was trying to stay on the centerline.”

The pilot said in a statement that the first officer made a maneuver he was not expecting “and I instinctively applied maximum manual braking.”

Eastern Air Lines did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The transcript showed a Secret Service agent entered the cockpit and praised the pilots: “Nice job… you stopped it at least.”

In November, the NTSB reported the plane “floated” above the runway without touching down and landed about 3,000 feet (915 meters) beyond the runway threshold – far more than normal.

The Eastern flight crew did not report any mechanical problems and the flight crews of the four airplanes that landed immediately beforehand did not report any problems with braking on the runway.

Eastern Air Lines is based in Florida and privately held.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)–HirW_7M/us-usa-airplane-idUSKBN18S6MI

Father gets 70 years for throwing baby into Connecticut River | Reuters

New Haven District Superior Court Judge Elpedio Vitale handed Tony Moreno, 23, the maximum sentence after he was found guilty of murder and risk of injury to a child by a jury in February, the Hartford Courant reported.

“The utter depravity of the crime — a father killing his infant son — speaks for itself,” Vitale said, according to the newspaper.

Moreno is not eligible for parole, the paper reported.

Moreno admitted throwing his baby son, Aaden, off the Arrigoni Bridge in Middletown into the Connecticut River on July 5, 2015, police said.

“Every time I wake up, I pray the nightmare will be over and my son will be in my arms,” Aaden’s mother, Adrianne Oyola, told Moreno during the sentencing hearing. “Just know I tried to forgive you, but that’s impossible.”

Moreno was pulled from the water by firefighters after jumping off the 120-foot bridge in a failed suicide attempt, police said.

During the trial, Moreno’s attorney, Norman Pattis, tried to convince the jury that he went to the bridge only to kill himself. His son slipped from his hands and he did not intend to kill him, Pattis argued, the Courant reported.

“Sentences like this in my view reflect the savagery of the criminal justice system,” Pattis said to the Courant. “Judge Vitale has a reputation as a heavy hitter. He lived up to that reputation today.”

Pattis told the newspaper he plans to appeal.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Man arrested at Trump’s Washington hotel after guns found in car | Reuters

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON A Pennsylvania man was arrested at President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel early on Wednesday after police found a rifle, pistol and ammunition in his car, a discovery they said may have prevented a disaster in the U.S. capital.

Bryan Moles, 43, of Edinboro, was taken into custody shortly after checking in to the Trump International Hotel a few blocks from the White House, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham told a news conference.

A tipster had told the Pennsylvania State Police that Moles was traveling to Washington with weapons, and the information was passed on to the Secret Service and Washington police, Newsham said.

“I believe that the officers and our federal partners and in particular the tipster coming forward averted a potential disaster here in our nation’s capital,” Newsham said.

Moles was arrested without incident, the chief said.

Asked about reports that Moles had made threatening remarks, Newsham said his motive was under investigation and there was not enough information to charge Moles with making threats. The nature of the threats has not been divulged.

The Secret Service said in a statement it also was investigating the incident but said that no one under its protection was ever at risk.

Police had been told Moles had a Glock 23 pistol and a Carbon 15 Bushmaster rifle, an incident report said. Officers saw one of the guns in his car and found a second firearm in the glove compartment.

Moles also had 30 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and 60 .223-caliber rounds, the report said. He was charged with two counts of carrying a pistol without a license and possessing unregistered ammunition.

Police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal had no information about an attorney for Moles.

Trump’s hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, housed in a landmark former post office, has become a focal point for protests against the Republican president since he took office in January.

Edinboro Police Chief Jeff Craft said by telephone that Moles had no criminal record in the western Pennsylvania town and was not known to police.

(This version of the story was corrected to say to “Bryan” from “Brian” in the second paragraph)

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis and James Dalgleish)

Tiger Woods asleep at wheel of car before Florida arrest: police | Reuters

By Zachary Fagenson

JUPITER, Fla. Tiger Woods was asleep at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz stopped on a Florida road and did not know where he was, said a police report released on Tuesday, a day after the former world No. 1 golfer was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence. Woods, 41, blamed the incident on medications.

Woods had “extremely slow and slurred speech” after being awakened by a Jupiter police officer, who found the car the golfer was driving stopped in the right lane of the roadway and still running with the right blinker light flashing, the report said.

Woods was heading south, away from his Jupiter Island home, before his arrest at about 3 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Monday, according to the report. It said Woods was cooperative but had a hard time walking and keeping his eyes open.

The police report said that during his interaction with the arresting officer, Woods “changed his story of where he was going and where he was coming from.” At one point he indicated he was returning from a golf trip in Los Angeles, the report said.

The athlete, currently sidelined from competition after his fourth back surgery in April, said on Monday that an unexpected reaction to legal drugs led to his arrest on the DUI charge.

He also was cited for improper parking. Two breath tests showed Woods’ blood alcohol content to be zero, according to the report, which added he performed several field sobriety tests incorrectly.

“I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved,” Woods said in a statement. “What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.”

Woods apologized, saying, “I will do everything in my power to ensure this never happens again.”

Woods, who is second on the all-time list with 14 major titles, was released from jail on his own recognizance and is due in court on July 5, records show.

This was not Woods’ first run-in with Florida police. A bizarre early morning car crash outside his then-home in 2009 rapidly ballooned into a sex scandal involving allegations of extramarital affairs with several women.

His previously unblemished life and career were turned upside down as he lost both his marriage and some lucrative endorsement deals.

Woods’ current sponsors, including Nike Inc (NKE.N), Bridgestone Corp (5108.T), Hero, Kowa, TaylorMade and Monster Energy, did not immediately comment on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Rigby and Matthew Lewis)

Suspect in Portland commuter train attack to be arraigned in court | Reuters

The attack came as some religious rights groups warn of a rising tide of anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States, blaming President Donald Trump for divisive anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Trump condemned the fatal stabbings on Monday, calling them “unacceptable.”

The suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, a 35-year-old convicted felon, faces charges including aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.

A third man who came to the aid of the women suffered serious wounds in the attack that occurred on Friday hours before the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month.

Destinee Mangum, who was on the train with a friend wearing a Muslim head scarf, said in a video posted on CNN’s website on Monday that she did not know the men and thanked them for putting their lives on the line.

In his Twitter message, Trump said, “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

Trump’s remarks came after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on the president to condemn the rampage and speak out against what the advocacy group sees as an increase in anti-Islamic sentiment. Anti-Muslim incidents increased more than 50 percent in the United States last year, it said.

In an open letter to Trump that was posted on social media on Tuesday, Asha Deliverance, mother of stabbing victim Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, urged the president to condemn “acts of violence, which result directly from hate speech and hate groups.”

On Monday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called on federal authorities to rescind a permit for a June 4 “Trump Free Speech Rally” and not to issue a permit for a June 10 “March Against Sharia,” writing in a Facebook post that “our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”

The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union replied with a statement on Twitter the same day warning against censoring “unpopular speech.”

The FBI is investigating the attack to determine whether to charge Christian with terrorism or a federal hate crime, said Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Additional reporting by Tom James; Editing by Richard Lough and Frances Kerry)

Kentucky town welcomes Confederate memorial moved from Louisville | Reuters

By Bryan Woolston

BRANDENBURG, Kentucky A small Kentucky town gave a formal welcome on Monday to a monument to the Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War, rededicating the controversial structure after the University of Louisville removed it as an unwelcome symbol of slavery.

About 400 people, some dressed in grey replica uniforms and many holding small Confederate battle flags, gathered for the Memorial Day ceremony on a bluff above the Ohio River in Brandenburg, about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Louisville.

The town embraced the tower at a time when Confederate symbols are being removed across the South as reminders of a legacy of slavery and the racism that underpinned it.

“The way I look at it, it’s part of our history,” Brandenburg Mayor Ronnie Joyner said at the dedication, which included the firing of a Civil War-era cannon. “We need to preserve our history.”

Brandenburg says the riverfront park where it holds a biennial Civil War reenactment was an appropriate setting for what some see as a respectful homage to Kentucky’s fallen.

The monument’s new home is near the spot where a Confederate general in 1863 launched a raid on neighboring Indiana, and Brandenburg hopes the addition will bring more tourists to the town.

“The Civil War is not a popular part of people’s past, but you can’t wipe it out,” said Charles Harper of Louisville, who came to the dedication dressed in Confederate uniform. “Just because you wiped out a reference to the Civil War doesn’t mean you’ve wiped out slavery, doesn’t mean you wipe out racism.”

The 70-foot-tall concrete plinth features an oversized statue of a rebel soldier at its crown, representing one of thousands of Kentuckians who fought with breakaway Southern states in the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history.

Monday’s ceremony, watched by a crowd that was almost exclusively white, marked the end to a year-long saga that began in April 2016 when the University of Louisville announced it would dismantle the monument, erected in 1895.

Students and faculty had long criticized the memorial as a tacit tribute to Confederate cause during the 1861-65 conflict, fought primarily over the issue of slavery.

Last May, a state judge ruled against some Louisville residents and descendants of Confederate soldiers who sued to keep the monument from being moved.

Kentucky was neutral during the Civil War and never joined the Confederacy. But slavery was legal in the commonwealth and many Kentuckians sympathized with the rebel cause and fought on its side.

The drive to remove Confederate statues in the South and elsewhere accelerated after the 2015 murder of nine African-Americans by an avowed white supremacist at an historic South Carolina church. The murders stirred national soul-searching about racism and its symbols.

Soon after the killings, the Confederate battle flag was removed from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol.

Last week New Orleans dismantled the last of four Confederate statues that stood in the city for decades. The mayor of Baltimore said on Monday that her city was considering following the lead of New Orleans by removing its monuments.

(Additional reporting and writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida | Reuters

Woods, who is second on the all-time list with 14 major titles, was booked at 7:18 a.m. (1118 GMT) and released several hours later on his own recognizance, the report showed.

Representatives for the 41-year-old American were not immediately available when asked by Reuters to comment.

Woods, who is currently sidelined from competition after having his fourth back surgery in April, said last week that he felt better than he had in years and had no plans to retire from competitive golf.

“Presently, I’m not looking ahead,” Woods wrote on his website.

“I can’t twist for another two and a half to three months. Right now, my sole focus is rehab and doing what the doctors tell me. I am concentrating on short-term goals.”

This is not the first time Woods has made headlines away from the golf course. His private life unraveled in late 2009 over allegations about affairs with several women and ultimately led to the end of his marriage.

Those allegations followed a bizarre early morning car accident outside his Florida home that rapidly ballooned into a fully-fledged sex scandal which turned his previously unblemished life and career upside down.

The scandal ultimately cost Woods a number of lucrative endorsement deals, while other sponsors shifted away from using him in marketing but did not end their contracts with him.

Woods, whose current sponsors include Nike, Bridgestone, Hero, Kowa, Upper Deck, and Monster Energy was ranked 12th on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes in 2016, with total earnings of $45.3 million, despite missing much of the year recovering from back surgery.

A 79-time winner on the PGA Tour who was world No. 1 for a record 683 weeks, Woods lost form in recent years due to injuries and the mastering of a new swing while his ranking has plummeted to 876 after his long spell on the sidelines.

He has competed in only 19 events on the PGA Tour since the end of 2013, recording just one top-10 during that period along with seven missed cuts and three withdrawals.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Additional reporting by Frank McGurty in New York; Editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Zieminski)

U.S. Navy skydiver killed in parachuting accident in New York Harbor | Reuters

By Maurice Tamman

JERSEY CITY, N.J. A member of the U.S. Navy’s elite skydiving demonstration team plunged to his death on Sunday when his parachute malfunctioned while performing in an aerial exhibition as part of New York Harbor’s annual Fleet Week festival.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel pulled the parachutist from the water near the mouth of the Hudson River moments after the accident, witnessed by thousands of spectators watching the show from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The skydiver, a Navy SEAL commando performing as a member of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, was pronounced dead at the Jersey City Medical Center, Rear Admiral Jack Scorby told a news conference outside the hospital.

The parachutist’s identity was being publicly withheld pending notification of his family.

The skydiver and other team members were conducting a jump into Liberty State Park when his “parachute failed to open properly and he landed in the water” adjacent to the park, Scorby said.

The admiral offered no further explanation about the cause of the accident except to say the parachute “malfunctioned.” Eyewitnesses said the skydivers jumped from helicopters.

The Leap Frogs were performing as part of Fleet Week, a weeklong showcase that brings dozens of U.S. warships and thousands of service members to the New York City area every year.

The parachute team comprises active-duty Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen and support personnel. It is sanctioned by the Defense Department and recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to its website.

Bjoern Kils, 37, of Jersey City, was watching the event from a boat when he saw three Leap Frogs jump from a helicopter, complete their aerial maneuvers and land.

“Almost the same time that they touched down in Liberty State Park we heard a splash and turned around very quick. I saw the water splash, and apparently there was a fourth parachutist,” said Kils, who runs charter boats.

Kils recounted seeing emergency responders pull a man from the water and attempt to render cardiopulmonary resuscitation. “He was just limp in the water,” he said.

Rich Collins, 59, a retired banker who was watching the show from a nearby marina, said he saw several parachutists make a jump, one with an American flag attached to an ankle, then saw two others higher up, “and one of them seemed not to have his chute.”

(Additional reporting by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing and additional reporting in Los Angeles by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney and David Gregorio)