TIME Courts

Former Iowa Lawmaker Found Not Guilty of Sexually Abusing Wife With Dementia

He was accused of having sex with her at a nursing home after being told by staff she wasn't capable of consent

(GARNER, Iowa) — An Iowa jury on Wednesday found a longtime state lawmaker not guilty of sexually abusing his wife who suffered from dementia, an unusual case that centered on when a person is no longer mentally capable of consenting to sex.

After about 13 hours of deliberation over three days, jurors found Henry Rayhons, 78, not guilty of third-degree sexual abuse of his wife, Donna Lou Rayhons. He was accused of having sex with her at a nursing home in May after being told by staff that she was no longer capable of consenting due to dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. She died in August.

Henry Rayhons testified in his own defense that on the night in question the couple held hands, prayed and kissed, but had no sexual contact.

“The truth finally came out,” Rayhons said after the verdict, noting that he believed his wife was “with him” throughout the trial.

Jurors weighed testimony from family members, doctors and investigators throughout the trial in Hancock County Court. Rayhons’ defense attorney said a guilty verdict could raise fears that any interaction between spouses could be interpreted as sexual abuse. Prosecutors said a not guilty verdict would put others with dementia at risk of being harmed.

Iowa law defines an act as sexual abuse in the third degree if the two parties are not living together as husband and wife and if one person “is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent.”

Mark Kosieradzki, a Minneapolis-based attorney who has tried numerous cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes, said it wasn’t clear whether the jury concluded that she was able to consent or if they decided that the prosecution had failed to prove that sex took place on that day.

“But the legal question doesn’t change. It should always be a matter of consent of the patient,” Kosieradzki said.

Jurors on Tuesday submitted a note to the judge, asking how many days are included in the prosecution’s allegation that a sex act occurred “on or about” May 23. The court answered that a set number of days couldn’t be provided.

Henry and Donna Lou Rayhons were married for seven years, the second marriage for both after they had been widowed. The dispute began last year when Donna Lou Rayhons’ health deteriorated and she was moved to a nursing home in the town of Garner.

The family conflict that erupted between Henry Rayhons and his wife’s daughters from her previous marriage over how to care for her culminated in a meeting in which the nursing home staff briefly told Rayhons that his wife was no longer mentally capable of legally consenting to sex. In his testimony, Rayhons said he thought this was a doctor’s advice, not an order.

Donna Lou Rayhons’ daughters declined comment through an attorney after the verdict Wednesday.

During the trial, nursing home staffers testified that Donna Lou Rayhons’ roommate talked about the couple having sex behind a curtain, but in testimony the roommate was unsure whether the noises she heard that day were sexual in nature.

Prosecutors said investigators found DNA evidence on sheets and a quilt in his wife’s room. They also played a recorded interview with an investigator that showed Rayhons initially said he and his wife never had sex at the nursing home, but later said they had a few times, and possibly briefly on the day in question.

Security camera video from the night of the alleged incident was also aired in court, showing Henry Rayhons going into his wife’s room, staying there for about half an hour and depositing something into a laundry cart on his way out. Rayhons’ attorney said his client frequently dropped his wife’s laundry into the bin, but prosecutors said he was trying to discard evidence.

“Our office prosecuted this case based on a complaint, thorough law enforcement investigation, and Iowa law,” said Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. “The jury made its decision, which we respect.”

The nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association said it was not taking a position on the case, but noted that it highlighted the importance of conversations about patients’ capacity for decision-making.

Rayhons served 18 years as a Republican member of the Iowa House. He withdrew from the race for another term shortly before he was charged last year.

TIME police

New Protests Erupt in Baltimore Over Freddie Gray Case

The Rev. Westley West leads a march for Freddie Gray to the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station on April 22, 2015, in Baltimore.
Patrick Semansky—AP The Rev. Westley West leads a march for Freddie Gray to the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station on April 22, 2015, in Baltimore.

A look at the developments on Wednesday

(BALTIMORE) — A 25-year-old Baltimore man died a week after his spine was mysteriously injured while he was in police custody.

A look at the developments Wednesday in the case of Freddie Gray.

___

LYNCH MOB?

A statement released by the Baltimore police union comparing protesters of Gray’s death to a “lynch mob” drew criticism on Twitter by users who called it racially insensitive and inappropriate, given that the demonstrations have been peaceful.

A little later, at a news conference, union President Gene Ryan backpedaled, saying, “Maybe I should reword that.”

“I don’t want it to turn into a lynch mob,” he said.

“I’m afraid of the crowd becoming hostile,” said a tense-sounding Ryan. “They have been very peaceful to this point. My main concern is for the public and the police officers that they remain peaceful and exercise their constitutional right to do what they’re doing.”

Ryan said he feared violence because of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York that followed police-involved deaths of unarmed suspects.

___

#WeHearYou

One of two groups of protesters marched in the streets for 20 blocks Wednesday night, blocking intersections and disrupting traffic for short periods of time before moving on. They passed near the hospital where Gray died, and continued on to the Inner Harbor before stopping in front of City Hall.

Once there, some paused in front of a fountain and raised their hands, saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” They then approached barricades and officers protecting a courtyard directly in front of City Hall. A man with a bullhorn chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

The group then marched to an onramp of Interstate 83, a highway that cuts through the city. The ramp was blocked by several police cruisers and a line of officers, their arms linked.

Pastor Wesley West of Faith Empowered Ministries linked arms with Gray’s cousin, Carron Morgan, and they faced the crowd. After West led chants for justice and peace, and called for a moment of silence, protesters headed away from the interstate.

Morgan, 18, turned and quickly shook one of the officer’s hands.

Asked why, he said: “At the end of the day, I don’t think all cops are bad, just that some are corrupt.”

Baltimore police took to Twitter to provide updates of where the marchers were, using the hashtag, #WeHearYou.

___

ANGER

At a second protest at the Western District police precinct, more than 100 demonstrators pushed on a barricade, and about 30 police officers pushed back. Some protesters hurled obscenities and threw soda cans and bottles at the line of police behind the barricades, but none hit the officers and the demonstration remained largely peaceful.

For the most part, police ignored the insults did not react to provocations from the protesters.

At least three people were detained. No one was injured.

Mark Hill said anger in the community reached a boiling point after Gray’s death, but that the frustration is longstanding.

“It’s getting charged out here because people are really getting tired,” Hill said. “There’s a fear in the community of what police might do to you.

He said he has little confidence that police will be forthcoming about what happened to Gray.

“This is not an isolated event. This has been going on forever,” he said.

Bernadette Washington said she has been marching every day since Gray’s death.

Washington grew up with Gray and called him a good person who didn’t need to die. She didn’t understand why the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest are still drawing a paycheck while they’re suspended.

“All we want is justice,” Washington said.

___

INVESTIGATONS

Five of the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest gave statements that day, a week before his death, police said Wednesday while declining to reveal the content of what they said.

An attorney who works with the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police had mentioned the statements earlier in the day as a way of showing that the officers involved have been cooperative.

Police said the department’s internal investigation into Gray’s arrest will be turned over to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office for review on May 1. The prosecutor’s office can determine whether to file charges against the officers involved or present the case to a grand jury.

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Gray’s death.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she welcomed the Justice Department’s involvement. She has called along for an outside review.

“Whenever a police force conducts an internal investigation, there are always appropriate questions of transparency and impartiality,” she said in a statement. “My goal has always been to get answers to the questions so many of us are still asking with regards to Mr. Gray’s death.”

Gray’s family has an attorney who is working on his own investigation.

___

GOVERNOR’S VIEW

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he has spoken with city and state officials about the situation and won’t be ordering any further investigations.

He said he believes the current investigations are being handled properly and that “the last thing we need is people stepping all over each other.”

“We don’t want to make politics out of this tragic situation,” Hogan told reporters after an Earth Day event in Annapolis.

He said his heart goes out to Gray’s family “and everyone involved in the entire incident.”

“Like everyone else, we are hoping to get to the bottom of it and find out the facts.”

__

Associated Press reporters Amanda Lee Myers and David Dishneau contributed to this report.

TIME Crime

Son of Presidential Candidate Cited for DUI After Crash

Rand Paul's son was not arrested, which a Lexington Police spokeswoman said was standard in this type of case

(FRAKNFORT, Ky.) — A son of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol in Kentucky.

Police in Lexington say William H. Paul was driving a 2006 Honda Ridgeline at 11:24 a.m. on Sunday when he crashed into the back of an unoccupied parked car. Some people nearby heard the crash and alerted authorities.

Lexington Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Paul was treated at the University of Kentucky hospital for minor injuries to his face. She said a police officer cited Paul for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and failure of a nonowner/operator to maintain insurance.

Paul was alone at the time of the crash. He was not arrested, which Roberts said is standard for this type of case.

A campaign spokesman said Sen. Rand Paul does not comment on any private matters in regards to his family.

TIME Senate

Senate Unanimously Approves Anti-Human-Trafficking Bill

Ending a partisan standoff that delayed confirmation of Obama's attorney general nominee

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate unanimously passed legislation Wednesday to help the victims of human trafficking, ending a tortuous partisan standoff over abortion that also delayed confirmation of President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee.

The vote was 99-0 to approve the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which expands law enforcement tools to target sex traffickers and creates a new fund to help victims. The House has passed similar legislation and the White House has voiced support.

“We have not fallen deaf to the cries of those who actually need our help, the victims of human trafficking,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the lead GOP sponsor. “This legislation will be instrumental in helping victims of sexual abuse and trafficking recover from a life in bondage.”

The unanimous outcome put a bipartisan punctuation mark on legislation that started out with wide support from both parties, but veered into a partisan cul-de-sac last month when Democrats said they’d noticed language that could expand federal prohibitions on abortion funding. How or why Democrats had failed to see the provision in the first place became a topic of frosty dispute on Capitol Hill, with Republicans pointing out that the bill had unanimously passed committee, and one Democratic senator’s office acknowledging that an aide had in fact known of the abortion language.

At the same time, Attorney General-designate Loretta Lynch languished despite commanding enough votes to be confirmed, because Republican leaders made the decision, never fully explained, to delay her confirmation vote until the trafficking bill was completed. Now that it is, Lynch will get a vote Thursday to replace Eric Holder and become the nation’s first black female attorney general.

The partisan gridlock on the trafficking bill and Lynch made no one look good, and with all sides eager for a resolution Cornyn worked with Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to arrive at a compromise, which they announced Tuesday. It addresses Democratic concerns about expanding prohibitions on spending federal funds for abortions, by splitting the new victims’ fund into two pieces.

One part of the fund would be made up of fines paid by sex traffickers, and it could not go for health services, rendering the abortion restrictions moot. The other part of the fund, which could go for medical services, builds on $5 million already appropriated by Congress for Community Health Centers, which are already subject to abortion spending prohibitions. The compromise allowed both sides to claim a win since Republicans ensured any money for health services could not go for abortions, while Democrats could say that they had prevented prohibitions on spending federal money for abortions from being expanded to a new source of money.

“An effort to fight back against human trafficking in our country is, without question, no place for gridlock and dysfunction,” Murray said. “It certainly shouldn’t have taken this long but I’m pleased that we were able to work together, find common ground and reach an agreement.”

With the bill finally greased for passage following announcement of the abortion compromise, Republican leaders staved off one final partisan controversy by persuading conservatives in the caucus to hold back on a handful of immigration-related amendments they wanted to offer. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said he was urged to pull back an amendment that would have allowed for punishing people for immigrating illegally with their kids or other family members.

“I yielded to higher authorities against my better judgment. … We ended up with no immigration amendments,” Sessions said. “They wanted another bipartisan accomplishment and it wouldn’t have achieved it.”

The amendments that did get attached to the bill passed with little controversy, though one, by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., drew concerns from at least one advocacy group. The measure would make it illegal for websites or social media sites to “knowingly” sell advertisements for sex services involving minors. A pro-privacy group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the bill was so vaguely written that it potentially makes every U.S. company that hosts web content subject to criminal prosecution.

___

Associated Press writer Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

TIME

Judge OKs 65-Year Deal Over NFL Concussions That Could Cost $1B

Christopher Seeger, Shawn Wooden
Matt Rourke—AP Co-lead players' lawyer Christopher Seeger, left, and client former NFL player Shawn Wooden speak with members of the media after a hearing on the proposed NFL concussion settlement, Nov. 19, 2014, outside of the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia.

(PHILADELPHIA) — A federal judge has approved a plan to resolve thousands of NFL concussion lawsuits that could cost the league $1 billion over 65 years.

The NFL expects 6,000 of nearly 20,000 retired players to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia someday. The settlement approved Wednesday by a federal judge in Philadelphia would pay them about $190,000 on average.

The awards could reach $1 million to $5 million for those diagnosed in their 30s and 40s with Parkinson’s disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease, or for deaths involving chronic brain trauma.

The league has been dogged for years by complaints that it long hid the risks of repeated concussions in order to return players to the field.

Players’ lawyers have argued that the settlement will help families get needed financial awards or medical testing that might take years if the case went to trial.

Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody approved the deal after twice sending it back to lawyers over concerns the fund might run out. The negotiators did not increase the original $765 million plan, but agreed to remove that number as the cap.

The deal means the NFL may never have to disclose what it knew when about the risks and treatment of concussions.

The league’s top lawyer said Brody’s approval “powerfully underscores the fairness and propriety” of the settlement.

“Retirees and their families will be eligible for prompt and substantial benefits and will avoid years of costly litigation that — as Judge Brody’s comprehensive opinion makes clear — would have an uncertain prospect of success,” NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said in a statement.

The total NFL payouts over 65 years, including interest and $112 million sought for lawyer fees, is expected to be more than $1 billion.

Critics contend the NFL is getting off lightly given annual revenues of about $10 billion. But plaintiffs would have first had to fight their way into court — instead of getting booted to NFL mediation under their players’ contracts — to prevail.

“From a business point of view, (the NFL has) … avoided what may have been the biggest risk to their continued prosperity,” said Andrew Brandt, director of the sports law program at Villanova University law school.

“Removing this as a threat is extraordinary,” he said.

The NFL lawsuits, and similar suits filed later against the NHL, the NCAA and others, has fostered debate, discussion and safety reforms about sports concussions. Yet the NFL games seem to be as wildly popular as ever.

“I know people talk about, it’s dangerous, and mothers won’t let their sons play football. But I don’t see that. I don’t see that at all,” Brandt said.

About 200 NFL retirees or their families have rejected the settlement and plan to sue the league individually. They include the family of Junior Seau, the popular Pro Bowler who killed himself at his San Diego-area home in 2012 after several years of increasingly erratic behavior. An autopsy showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Brody most recently asked for several tweaks, including partial credit for time played in NFL Europe and other developmental leagues, to broaden the settlement. Negotiators quickly agreed to her suggestions.

She rejected other complaints raised at a November hearing, including those who say the agreement does not cover future deaths from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that can only be diagnosed after death, or contemplate the day when it might be diagnosed in the living.

Others oppose the award reductions for older men and those who played fewer than five years in the league.

“Although objectors insist that there must be compensation for CTE, the NFL parties were unwilling to settle claims based solely on a (diagnosis) … rather than on manifest neurocognitive deficits,” the lead negotiators wrote in a March court filing urging Brody to approve the deal. “Many of the behavioral and mood conditions claimed to be associated with CTE are prevalent within the general public.”

TIME

Scottish Collie Behind Wheel of Runaway Vehicle Causes Scare

Drivers dogged by M-way tailbacks
Danny Lawson—AP Tom Hamilton and Don the dog at Kirkton Farm in Abington, South Lanarkshire, after tailbacks were caused on a busy motorway this morning due to a dog taking control of a tractor.

(LONDON) — Don the Sheepdog might want to learn a new trick: applying the brakes.

The border collie inspired a traffic scare and social media gold after he plunged down a hill and onto a highway in his master’s vehicle.

Wednesday’s incident near Abington, Scotland, began when farmer Tom Hamilton left Don sitting in his utility vehicle as he inspected lambs. He insists the parking brake was on.

Not strongly enough. The vehicle rolled through a fence, down a steep hill and across the M74 motorway, missing other vehicles and hitting a security barrier. Onlookers presumed the dog was driving, and that inspired an online joke-fest.

Some wondered if police had collared Don and put him in the doghouse, whether he was licensed to drive, or might have been barking mad.

TIME Crime

Reagan Shooter Seeks Release From Mental Hospital

JOHN HINCKLEY JR.
Charles Tasnadi—AP John Hinckley Jr., left in back seat, is escorted from U.S. District Court in Washington in this April 13, 1987 file photo.

John Hinckley Jr. was 25 when a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity

(WASHINGTON) — The man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 is “clinically ready” to live fulltime outside a mental hospital, his lawyer argued in federal court on Wednesday.

John Hinckley Jr. has been in “full and stable remission” for more than two decades, his lawyer Barry Levine argued.

Prosecutor Colleen Kennedy argued to the contrary, saying more restrictions and conditions are needed to keep both Hinckley and others safe.

Hinckley was 25 when a jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the assassination attempt. Ever since, he’s lived at St. Elizabeths, a Washington mental hospital. But for a dozen years now, he’s gradually been given more freedom.

Now 60, he already spends more than half his time — 17 days a month — at the home of his 89-year-old mother, in a gated community that surrounds a golf course in Williamsburg, Virginia. He goes to movies and the bookstore, shopping and eating out like anyone else, and mostly goes unnoticed, although the U.S. Secret Service keeps watch now and then.

Levine has argued that living fulltime with his elderly mother while she’s still alive will enable Hinckley to show the world he’s no longer a threat. Levine and hospital officials are asking that Hinckley be granted “convalescent leave,” living full time on the outside but still meeting regularly with a psychiatrist and therapists.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman approved the 17-day visits, but said Hinckley would need to demonstrate his success before being granted any additional freedom. Several days of hearings this week are meant to determine whether he’s met this test.

TIME Yemen

Airstrikes Hit Yemen After Saudi Arabia Declares Operation Over

Yemen Conflict
Hani Ali—Corbis A boy looks at the Saudi-led airstrikes on a military camp in Sanaa, Yemen, on April 21, 2015.

(SANAA, Yemen) — Saudi-led airstrikes targeted Iran-backed rebels and their allies in Yemen on Wednesday, hours after Riyadh declared an end to a nearly monthlong air campaign that has claimed hundreds of lives but left the Shiite rebels in control of the capital and much of the country’s north.

The continuing strikes suggest that the U.S.-backed offensive, aimed at restoring Yemen’s internationally recognized president, is entering a new phase in which military action will be scaled back but not halted.

The air raids hit rebel positions in the southern port of Aden and central city of Taiz as ground fighting between the rebels and supporters of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi continued in both areas, Yemeni officials said.

The capital, Sanaa, was calm however, as residents experienced their quietest night in almost four weeks and did not wake up to new scenes of devastation.

The strikes in Taiz hit the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, as they gathered at a military headquarters they control near the old airport to the city’s southeast, the officials said. Also targeted was the southern port city of Aden, where aircraft blasted rebel forces in outlying districts.

Street fighting continued in both cities, especially Taiz, where the officials said pro-government forces control most of the city but have been in heavy combat with the rebels, leaving dozens killed on both sides. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Houthis have called for a massive rally, urging supporters over their Al-Masirah TV network to take to the streets of Sanaa later Wednesday to mark the end of the bombardment and to denounce the Saudi “aggression.”

Iran has provided political and humanitarian support to the Houthis, but both Tehran and the rebels deny it has armed them. On Wednesday Iran welcomed the Saudi decision to halt the operation codenamed “Decisive Storm” and launch a new one titled “Renewal of Hope.”

“We believe this was a positive step,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, adding that “political cooperation” by all parties is needed to resolve the Yemen crisis.

The U.S.-backed air campaign, launched March 26, was aimed at crushing the Houthis and allied military units loyal to former autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had taken over Sanaa and much of northern Yemen.

But the rebels and their allies have lost little ground, and Hadi remains in exile in Saudi Arabia. Aden, where he had established a temporary capital before fleeing the country last month, is gripped by fierce fighting, and al-Qaida’s powerful local affiliate has exploited the chaos to seize the southeastern port city of Mukalla.

The U.S. welcomed the conclusion of the Saudi-led operation, saying it looked forward to a shift from military operations to a quick resumption of negotiations.

“We strongly urge all Yemeni parties, in particular the Houthis and their supporters, to take this opportunity to return to these negotiations as part of the political dialogue,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

“The Yemeni people deserve the opportunity to hold a peaceful debate about their new constitution, to participate in a credible and safe constitutional referendum, and to vote in free and fair national elections,” she said.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia declared “Decisive Storm” over and announced the start of a more limited military campaign aimed at preventing the rebels from operating.

Speaking at a news conference in Riyadh, coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said the heavy airstrikes would be scaled down, but did not confirm whether they would stop altogether.

“There might be less frequency and the scope of the actions might be less, but there will be military action,” Asiri said. He added that Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies, mainly Gulf Arab countries, were concluding this phase of the operation upon the request of the “legitimate” Yemeni government led by Hadi.

He said the goals of the new operation are to prevent Houthi rebels from “targeting civilians or changing realities on the ground.”

In an apparent goodwill gesture on Wednesday, the rebels released from detention the country’s Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaih, the brother of the embattled President Hadi and a third military commander. The three were held for nearly a month by the Houthis.

The move could reflect an imminent political deal between Hadi and the rebels and their allies.

Pakistan, a close Saudi ally which did not join the coalition but said it supported the campaign, welcomed the end of the airstrikes and expressed hope this would “pave the way for political solution of the crisis in Yemen.”

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the violence in Yemen has killed 944 people since the start of the airstrikes and wounded 3,500.

Yemeni security officials meanwhile said a suspected U.S. drone strike killed seven al-Qaida fighters in the country’s east on Wednesday.

They said the militants were travelling in a car in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, where al-Qaida has recently made advances and struck deals with local tribesmen. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Yemen’s chaos has forced the U.S. to scale back drone strikes on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the local affiliate is known. AQAP has carried out a number of failed attacks on the U.S. and claimed the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine earlier this year. It has long been seen as the global network’s most potent local affiliate.

___

Rohan reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Najran, Saudi Arabia, Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Will Visit Cuba in September

Pope Francis changes his skullcap as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, in the Vatican City on April 22, 2015.
Angelo Carconi—EPA Pope Francis changes his skullcap as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, in the Vatican City on April 22, 2015.

Francis has been credited with helping the United States and Cuba reach their historic rapprochement

(VATICAN CITY) — The Vatican says Pope Francis will visit Cuba before arriving in the United States in the last week of September.

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed the Cuba leg to reporters Wednesday. He didn’t provide details or dates.

Francis has been credited with helping the United States and Cuba reach their historic rapprochement by writing to the leaders of both countries and having the Vatican host their delegations for the final negotiations. Francis’ visit to Cuba would be a way for him to push the process forward.

He is scheduled to visit three U.S. cities starting around Sept. 23. He will address Congress and meet with President Barack Obama at the White House, address the U.N. in New York and attend a church rally for families in Philadelphia.

TIME France

Terror Plot on Paris Church Thwarted After Extremist Accidentally Shoots Himself

FRANCE-CRIME-ATTACK-GOVERNMENT
Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (C) and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (L) and Villejuif's Mayor Franck Le Bohellec leave the Sainte Therese de l'Enfant Jesus church in Villejuif, outside Paris, on April 22, 2015.

The man was linked to an earlier shooting in Paris

(PARIS) — An Islamist extremist with an arsenal of loaded guns was only prevented from opening fire on Sunday morning churchgoers because he accidentally shot himself, French officials said.

The 24-year-old computer science student, who was also suspected in the death of a young woman whose body was found on Sunday just ahead of his arrest, had been flagged as a risk last year and earlier this year but there was no specific reason to open a judicial investigation, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday.

A French security official, who was not authorized to publicly release details, said the suspect — an Algerian who had lived in France for several years — was arrested in Paris Sunday after he apparently shot himself by accident and called for an ambulance. He was waiting outside for first aid when police arrived at the scene. They discovered a blood trail leading to his car, which contained loaded guns and notes about potential targets.

“Documents were also found and they prove, without any ambiguity, that the individual was preparing an imminent attack, in all probability, against one or two churches,” Cazeneuve said.

In the man’s apartment, in southeastern Paris, more weapons were found as well as Islamic extremist material, the official said. There was no immediate evidence that the suspect had direct ties to any organized groups, the official said.

Aurelie Chatelain, a 32-year-old Frenchwoman visiting Paris for a training session for her work, was found shot to death on Sunday morning in her car. The security official said Chatelain appeared to have been killed at random and ballistics evidence linked her death to the suspect.

“The terrorists target France to divide us” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls at a news conference Wednesday.

France has been on edge since the Jan. 7-9 attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket left 20 people dead, including the three gunmen. In that case, at least two of the gunmen had been flagged to French intelligence — and the third had been recently released from prison after serving a sentence involving his ties to Islamic extremists — but surveillance was called off months before the attack.

Read next: Palestinians Have Created a United Force to Keep ISIS Out of Their Camps

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