TIME Crime

D.C. Mansion Murder Suspect Is Innocent Because He Hates Pizza, Lawyer Says

daron-dylon-wint-composite
Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department

Suspect's DNA was found on a pizza slice

A lawyer visiting Daron Wint, the man charged in the murder of a wealthy Washington, D.C. family, says Wint couldn’t have committed the quadruple homicide because he hates pizza.

Robin Flicker, a lawyer who has represented suspect Wint in the past but has not been officially hired as his defense attorney, says police are zeroing in on Wint because his DNA was found on pizza at the crime scene. The only problem, Flicker said is that Wint doesn’t like pizza.

“He doesn’t eat pizza,” Flicker told ABC News. “If he were hungry, he wouldn’t order pizza.”

Wint is accused of murdering American Iron Works CEO Savvas Savopoulos, his wife, Amy, their 10-year-old son Philip, and the family’s housekeeper, Vera Figueroa, before setting their mansion on fire. The three Savopoulos family members will be buried on Monday. They are survived by two older daughters, who were away at boarding school at the time of the murder.

Flicker told ABC that police have “blinders on” when it comes to Wint, and that they’re not actively looking for other suspects. “They believe, perhaps honestly, that they have the man,” he said. “But as a result of that they’re not looking elsewhere. They’ve closed their eyes.” Police have said they’re looking for accomplices, since they do not believe Wint acted alone.

[ABC ]

TIME Television

The Big Bang Theory to Fund UCLA Scholarship for Science Students

The Big Bang Theory
Michael Yarish—CBS/Getty Images Still from "The Graduation Transmission" on April 23, 2015.

$4 million will help needy students supplement their financial aid

The Big Bang Theory is about fictional scientists, but now the show is funding a scholarship for real-life science students.

The Big Bang Theory Scholarship Endowment has already raised $4 million to support undergraduate students at UCLA who are studying the sciences. Starting in the fall, 20 Big Bang Theory grants will be awarded to UCLA science students who have gotten in on academic merit but need extra support to supplement their financial aid, according to a UCLA statement. Every year, five more students will be added.

Chuck Lorre, The Big Bang Theory co-creator and executive producer, is mostly funding the endowment, with help from show co-stars like Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Mayim Bialik and Johnny Galecki, and with contributions from Warner Bros. and CBS, the Los Angeles Times reports. This is the first UCLA scholarship from the cast and crew of a TV series.

“We have all been given a gift with ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ a show that’s not only based in the scientific community, but also enthusiastically supported by that same community. This is our opportunity to give back,” Lorre said in a statement. “In that spirit, our Big Bang family has made a meaningful contribution, and together we’ll share in the support of these future scholars, scientists and leaders.”

The first group of scholars will be announced on the set of The Big Bang Theory this fall.

TIME Crime

Dustin Diamond Convicted of Misdemeanors in Stabbing

Dustin Diamond stabbing conviction
AP This Dec. 26, 2014 file photo provided by the Ozaukee County, Wis., Sheriff shows Dustin Diamond, the actor who played Screech in the 1990s TV show "Saved by the Bell."

The Saved by the Bell actor was cleared of the more serious felony charge

(PORT WASHINGTON, Wis.)—TV actor Dustin Diamond was convicted Friday of two misdemeanors stemming from a barroom fight, but a Wisconsin jury cleared the former Saved by the Bell actor of the most serious felony charge.

The jury’s verdict came just hours after the 38-year-old actor testified that he never intended to stab anyone in the fight last Christmas Day. He had pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of recklessly endangering public safety, plus two misdemeanors — carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.

The first misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of nine months in prison, the second a maximum of 90 days in prison.

Diamond didn’t display emotion at the jury’s decision Friday night. He told reporters he couldn’t comment as he left the courtroom after a 13-hour day of testimony and jury deliberations.

Diamond, who played the character Screech on the popular 1990s show, said some people had wanted to shake his hand and pose for photos at the bar, but that others were badgering him and his girlfriend, Amanda Schutz. He said he was trying to scare bar patrons in Port Washington after his girlfriend was punched in the face.

“I felt like we were being set up for antagonistic purposes,” he said.

Witnesses testified that Schutz pushed one woman at the bar and grabbed another woman’s hand, initiating the incident. Schutz also faces a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

Diamond said he tried to help Schutz and took out his pocketknife to deter the group from hurting her more.

The man who was stabbed, 25-year-old Casey Smet, testified Thursday that he didn’t know he had been stabbed until he had left the bar and was talking to police.

After maintaining a serious facade during most of the trial, Diamond grinned Friday when a defense attorney asked if he liked being compared to the character Screech. Diamond said he, like his character, enjoyed nerdy things. And Diamond said he liked being identified in public as the goofy television character.

“That means they love you,” Diamond said. “That means you’re doing your job.”

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol argued Friday that Diamond lied about what happened and that the actor had scripted his testimony.

Gerol showed body-camera footage of Diamond’s testimony to a Port Washington police officer the night of the fight. In the video Diamond first said he might have struck Smet with a pen. In a video of testimony later that night, Diamond said he had a knife at the bar, but hadn’t used it to stab anyone.

No apparent “Saved by the Bell” fans sat in the galleries during the three-day trial. But another apparent fan, Diamond’s defense attorney Thomas Alberti, wrote “Good Luck to Dustin & Amanda” on his car window Wednesday ahead of the trial. Circuit Court Judge Paul Malloy scolded Alberti and told him to remove it because it was “inappropriate.”

The jury also convicted Schutz with disorderly conduct Friday night. Schutz faces a maximum of 90 days in prison.

A sentencing date for Diamond and Schutz has not been announced.

Port Washington is 25 miles north of Milwaukee.

TIME Guns

Air-Powered Guns Linked to Soaring Rates of Eye Injuries

Researchers attribute a 500% spike in eye injuries to the growing popularity of pressurized firearms, particularly among children

The number of children who sustained eye injuries from “airsoft” guns grew by over 500% in the two years to 2012, according to a Stanford University study.

Some 3,000 children suffered injuries to their eyes from pressurized airguns that year, more than five times as many as in 2010. “These results demonstrate that air guns can cause severe, yet preventable, eye injury among the pediatric population,” study co-author Douglas Frederick said in a statement posted to Stanford medicine’s official blog.

The guns, which use pressurized air to fire plastic pellets at speeds topping 120 meters per second, have grown in popularity as a less risky alternative to BB guns and live ammunition.

John Steele, an industry spokesperson, told the Wall Street Journal that airsoft gun makers stress the importance of parental supervision in warning labels and shooting events. “We work like crazy to try to get parents more involved in supervising their kids,” Steele said.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

TIME

Hastert Paid to Hush Up Sexual Misconduct, Reports Say

Several outlets reporting former House Speaker paid to hush up misconduct of a sexual nature

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert allegedly paid an individual to keep quiet about sexual misconduct, according to multiple media reports.

The Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Buzzfeed reported, citing anonymous federal officials, that the “prior misconduct” mentioned in the seven page indictment of Hastert was sexual in nature.

The New York Times reports a man told the FBI Hastert had fondled him when Hastert was a history teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. Hastert was at the school between 1965 and 1981.

Hastert was charged on Thursday for lying to FBI agents about bank transactions he made to allegedly “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct” against the person identified as “Individual A.”

The Northern Illinois U.S. District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the specific misconduct, noting that the 73-year-old had only been charged for the two crimes mentioned in the indictment. Calls to representatives at Dickstein Shapiro, where Hastert worked before the indictment, were not immediately returned.

Hastert will not be arrested, according to a spokesperson at the U.S. Attorney’s office, but no court date has been set. A judge, however has been assigned to the case— Obama appointee Judge Thomas M. Durkin.

TIME Courts

Silk Road Mastermind Sentenced to Life in Prison

This Feb 4, 2015, file courtroom sketch, shows defendant Ross William Ulbricht as the deputy recites the word “guilty” multiple times during Ubricht’s trial in New York.
Elizabeth Williams—AP This Feb 4, 2015 courtroom sketch shows defendant Ross William Ulbricht as the deputy recites the word “guilty” multiple times during Ubricht'’s trial in New York.

The world’s most famous bitcoin criminal received his prison sentence. Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts will do time for running an online drug and mayhem marketplace.

Ross Ulbricht was an Eagle Scout and a popular physics student who made a fateful decision to reinvent himself as the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a pseudonym he used to operate a massive illegal online bazaar known as the Silk Road. It came crashing down hard on Friday as a federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Ulbricht to serve the rest of his life in prison, following his earlier conviction on seven different charges.

The punishment is surprisingly harsh, exceeding even what the prosecutors had suggested. Ulbricht, who had earlier implored the judge to “please leave my old age,” can appeal the sentence though that would be a long shot.

“You were the captain of the ship as Dread Pirate Roberts, and you enforced the law as you see fit, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest told Ulbricht in imposing the sentence.

Ulbricht may have been able to obtain lighter sentence had he pled guilty, but he instead went with a far-fetched defense strategy at trial that claimed that he had started the site, but that someone else was the real Dread Pirate Roberts.

Friday’s hearing came at a court room so crowded that many spectators were forced into a nearby overflow area. The court scene reflected the worldwide interest in the Silk Road affair, which included numerous ripped-from-an-action-movie elements, including the FBI’s dramatic 2013 takedown of Ulbricht’s dramatic in a San Francisco library.

The ensuing criminal case included allegations that Ulbricht attempted to hire hit men (in reality FBI agents) to kill employees he believed had betrayed him. It also turned featured an FBI agent who went rogue, and sold Ulbricht information about the government’s case for hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid in bitcoins.

Ulbricht’s case has been of huge interest to bitcion users, in part because it has at times unfairly maligned the virtual currency, which is also used for everyday transactions. The bitcoin community also took an interest because of Ulbricht’s personal bitcoin fortune – which the U.S. Marshalls Service has been selling in a series of auctions.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.

TIME Crime

Baltimore Police Union Chief Says Criminals ‘Empowered’ By Riots

Murder Spike Baltimore
Juliet Linderman—AP A Baltimore Police officer follows a man where a young boy and a 31-year-old woman were shot and killed May 28, 2015. In the month since Freddie Gray died and the city erupted in civil unrest, Baltimore has seen its murder rate skyrocket. There have been 38 murders in May alone.

As murders in the city spike and arrests plummet

Murders in Baltimore have reached the highest levels in 15 years, and the president of the city’s police union says it’s due to criminals feeling emboldened following the riots that broke out over the death of Freddie Gray last month.

“We’ve accomplished a lot of things over the last 10, 15 years and now we’re going backwards because the criminals are empowered,” says Lt. Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore city’s Fraternal Order of Police. “The criminal element is taking advantage of the crisis. They don’t believe there’s any recourse.”

On Thursday, two more people were found shot and killed in the city, the 37th and 38th homicides in May, the highest mark for Baltimore since November 1999. That spike in murders has coincided with a drastic decrease in arrests, which are down 56% compared with last year, according to the Associated Press.

The decline in arrests comes weeks after six police officers were indicted last month in the death of Freddie Gray, who died April 19 in police custody from a severe spinal injury. Gray’s death sparked riots in late April that damaged businesses and injured dozens of police officers.

Ryan says that many officers are concerned that mistakes on the force could get them indicted too. “Officers are afraid of doing their job,” he says. “They’re more afraid of going to jail than getting shot and killed right now.”

He added that he’s currently putting together a report based on officer interviews focusing on how the protests turned violent.

TIME Religion

Islamic Community Center Standing Tall in the Face of Armed ‘Free Speech’ Protesters

Usama Shami, the president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, speaks at the mosque on May 4, 2015, in Phoenix.
Ross D. Franklin—AP Usama Shami, the president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, speaks at the mosque on May 4, 2015, in Phoenix.

"We have the right to assemble, the right to worship, and he's not going to take that right away from us"

Leaders at an Islamic community center in Phoenix say they’re standing tall in the face of armed protesters who are planning a provocative “free speech rally” in front of the mosque Friday night.

Former Marine Jon Ritzheimer, who planned the rally, is urging attendees to “utilize their Second Amendment right”—the right to bear arms—as they protest during evening prayers at the mosque. He is also organizing a Muhammad Cartoon Contest as part of the protest, which is considered blasphemous by many Muslims.

“I know that he is hoping for confrontation,” Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, said of Ritzheimer. “The whole point of bringing guns—these are not peace tools, these are meant to intimidate people.”

“The whole issue with cartoon drawing is to inflame emotions and hoping that someone will cross the line,” Shami added. “We’re not going to be falling into that trap, we understand what he’s trying to do.”

Ritzheimer said the rally is a “response” to the May 3 shooting outside a Texas “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,” in which both gunmen were killed by police. ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting, but it’s unclear whether they actually helped plan the attack.

“Islam has an ugly track record,” Ritzheimer, who also organized a May 17 rally in front of the same Islamic center, told TIME in an email. “Our founding fathers gave us the second amendment to protect ourselves from tyranny. I would hate for an attack to happen at this event and people be ill prepared and un able to protect themselves.” Multiple photos on Ritzheimer’s Facebook page depict him wearing a T-shirt that says “F-ck Islam.”

Despite the rally, evening prayers at the Islamic Community Center are scheduled to go ahead as planned.

“We’re not changing anything,” Shami said. “If they want to express their opinion and draw cartoons, that’s up to them. I don’t like them, but they have the right to do that.”

Ritzheimer said he hopes to hold additional events across the country.

“I want Freedom of Speech Rallies to pop up in every state,” he said. “I want the truth about Islam exposed because people are ignorant to the religion if they haven’t read the Quran. I want to know that my children won’t have to be threatened with murder for drawing a cartoon.” Ritzheimer is not affiliated with Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who organized the Texas event where the shooting occurred.

Shami said the mosque would have extra security Friday night, but he and his congregation are unbowed by the protest. “We’re not going to be intimidated, we’re citizens of this country like he is, we have rights like he does,” Shami added. “We have the right to assemble, the right to worship, and he’s not going to take that right away from us.”

TIME weather

Texas Braces for a Wet Weekend

Rescue personnel search the floodwaters along Brays Bayou in southwest Houston, Texas
Daniel Kramer—Reuters Rescue personnel search the floodwaters along Brays Bayou in southwest Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015.

There's up to a 70 percent chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms in the Houston area

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for 24 more counties, raising the total to 70 counties with such a designation due to recent storms and flooding or earlier tornadoes.

Abbott said in a statement Friday that other counties could be added as the situation develops. More storms are expected to pass through the state over the weekend, including parts of the state already dealing with major flooding.

The National Weather Service said Friday that there’s up to a 70 percent chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms in the Houston area from Saturday afternoon into Sunday. One to 3 inches of rain is expected, on average, but up to 6 inches could fall in some places.

There is up to a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms during that time in the Austin and San Antonio area, with 1 to 2 inches of rain likely.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the high chances of rain returns Friday night, with a 60 percent chance running through Saturday night. As much as 1½ inches could fall.

TIME justice

Feds Say No Evidence Black Man Found Hanged in Mississippi Was Murdered

Investigators rule out the possibility of hate crime prosecution for the death of Otis James Byrd

Investigators concluded that there was no evidence that a 54-year-old black man who was found hanging from a tree in Port Gibson, Mississippi was the victim of homicide, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

Officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division met with Byrd’s family on Friday to convey the news that the investigation would conclude without charges of a federal hate crime.

“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that there was no evidence to prove that Byrd’s death was a homicide,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

“Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an individual willfully caused bodily injury because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability.”

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