TIME Crime

Boston Bombing Trial Starts With Defense Lawyer Admitting ‘It Was Him’

Boston Marathon Bombing
Michael Dwyer—AP Members of the media wait outside federal court on March 4, 2015 in Boston.

3 people were killed and 264 were injured in the 2013 bombings

BOSTON — Nearly two years after twin blasts rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon, alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared before a jury Wednesday as a federal prosecutor accused him of believing he was “a soldier in a holy war against Americans” and Tsarnaev’s defense lawyer admitted that “it was him” in surveillance videos dropping a bomb-laden backpack on crowded Boylston Street.

In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb painted a detailed picture of the moments before the April 15, 2013 attack, with thousands gathered along the race sidelines as a Boston Red Sox game let out. Weinreb also presented a portrait of Tsarnaev as a duplicitous character who kept his violent tendencies secret from his closest friends and mingled among race’s spectators…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Snow, Ice, Floods to Pummel U.S. in Final Winter Storm

Storm will move from Kentucky to New York City

Around 47 million Americans were under a severe weather watch Wednesday as a winter storm threatened to pelt Kentucky, the Ohio Valley and southern Plains with ice and record-setting snow before moving toward New York City and Washington, D.C.

Heavy rain was forecast to freeze as what is expected to be the last major system of the winter moved toward the East Coast after pounding the Rockies and northern Texas on Tuesday.

In Kentucky, rain heavy enough to cause flooding was expected to turn into snowfall of up to 10 inches late Wednesday — five times the average March snow for Louisville and just short of the all-time March record of 12 inches…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Education

California Teacher Found Hanging Knew Suicide’s Devastation

A photo of El Dorado High School teacher Jillian Jacobson is displayed near a gate, March 3, 2015, at the school in Fullerton, Calif.
Nick Ut—AP A photo of El Dorado High School teacher Jillian Jacobson is displayed near a gate, at the school in Fullerton, Calif., on March 3, 2015

Teacher's father also committed suicide four years ago

(PLACENTIA, Calif.) — The Southern California teacher whose students found her hanging from her classroom ceiling knew the devastating effects of suicide: Her own father went missing and was found dead with a bullet wound to his head after committing suicide nearly four years earlier.

Jillian Jacobson, 31, had spoken with students about her father’s suicide and had counseled one class of students just a few weeks ago, saying if they ever felt down, they should ask for help.

Jacobson did a weeklong unit on depression for freshmen, emphasizing that suicide wasn’t the answer to anyone’s problems and it affected many people greatly.

On Monday, students arriving to their morning photography class found the door to Jacobson’s room locked. Thinking their teacher was late, the students asked another teacher to unlock the door. When they opened it, they found Jacobson hanging from the ceiling.

Two school staff members got her down while another worker called 911.

“We have a teacher that’s down,” the caller said in a hurried voice.

“Do you know if they’re breathing?” the 911 dispatcher said.

“All I know is another teacher called crying and security is just saying, ‘Get them down here fast,'” said the caller, identified only as Melanie.

Paramedics arrived to find Jacobson in full cardiac arrest, and they were unable to resuscitate her. Police are calling Jacobson’s death a suicide, though no note was found and detectives are not releasing any information on what may have troubled the popular teacher.

Jacobson’s stunning death stood in stark contrast to the teacher students said they knew. They described her as someone cheerful and trusted who inspired in many a love of photography. She lived in nearby Anaheim in a quaint, gray home with a white picket fence.

Yet Jacobson had also experienced significant hardship in recent years. In 2011, her father went missing after leaving his job. Richard Prisbrey, 55, was found two days later, near his car in an isolated desert area more than an hour away. A coroner’s report ruled his death a suicide.

It was an event that students said clearly troubled Jacobson, but she kept her composure and didn’t get emotional when she talked about it with her class. No one could point to any recent warning signs that she was distressed, though one student noted that she lost a lot of weight.

After Monday’s stunning discovery, shock emanated throughout the school.

Alexandra Sanchez, 18, recalled how her teacher left the room and then came back, flustered, and told the class, “Mrs. Jacobson just hung herself.” The classroom went numb.

“It was silent,” she said. “A shock and silence.”

Later, students were escorted into the gym and a police officer told them Jacobson had committed suicide, but that there was no other information.

Monday evening, 500 students gathered outside the school’s gate, lighting candles and leaving written tributes for their teacher. On Tuesday, the candles remained at the site, a few still burning.

Assistant Superintendent Candy Plahy said the students who saw the hanging scene are being closely monitored and provided special counseling.

“These are kids who were particularly close to this teacher,” Plahy said. “Coming in and finding your teacher is no longer alive is traumatic. They need support.”

In their first-period class Tuesday, a school administrator delivered an announcement on the loudspeaker, saying they would all miss Jacobson and had to stay united.

Several students said they were confused and didn’t know how to process the information. Others couldn’t stop replaying the events in their heads. Later, in classes, teachers told students it was OK to feel mad or upset and encouraged them to talk with counselors.

Some students asked questions. Others remained silent.

“Everybody was sad,” Sanchez said.

Jillian Jacobson’s classroom door was locked, a picture of the smiling brunette placed out front along with notes and flowers.

Plahy said the classroom is expected to remain closed for the rest of the year.

Read next: Feds Raid California ‘Maternity Hotels’ for Birth Tourists

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TIME National Security

Police, NSA Investigating Report of Shots Fired

This Sept. 19, 2007 file photo shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md.
Charles Dharapak—AP The National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md., on Sept. 19, 2007

Damage was reported to the National Security Agency building

(FORT MEADE, Md.) U.S. Park Police are investigating whether a reported shooting along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway caused the damage that was reported to a nearby National Security Agency building.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lelani Woods said that the NSA reported damage to one of its buildings close to the parkway on Tuesday. She said it is too early to say whether the damage is related to the report of gunfire nearby.

NSA spokesman Ian Brennan says no injuries have been reported, and that state and local authorities are investigating.

Earlier Tuesday, Maryland Transportation Authority Police were investigating shots fired on the Inter-County Connector about 12 miles from the NSA. Police say one vehicle was hit, and one person was injured by broken glass.

Police would not say whether the shootings were related or whether the NSA was targeted.

TIME Education

Teach for America Passes a Big Test

But the number of new teacher applications are down this year, for the second year in a row

New teachers who sign up with Teach for America (TFA) for two-year classroom stints in some of the nation’s highest-poverty schools are just as effective as other teachers in those same schools, and sometimes more so, a new study finds.

That’s good news for the national nonprofit, which has come under fire in recent years as battles over education reform have become increasingly contentious.

Critics accuse TFA, which is closely aligned with the charter-school movement, of devaluing the teaching profession by pushing its recruits — mostly young, bright-eyed college grads — into classrooms without adequate experience or training. The organization’s supporters, meanwhile, argue that these new recruits fill a vital role in some of the highest-poverty schools, which are often unable to find teachers at all.

The findings released Wednesday conclude that TFA’s first- and second-year elementary school teachers, who average just over a year and a half of teaching experience, were as effective as their counterparts in the same schools, who averaged 13.6 years of teaching experience, as measured by their students’ test scores in reading and math. A small subset of those TFA teachers — ones in pre-K through second-grade classrooms — were found to be slightly more effective in teaching reading than the national average in those grades.

The study, conducted by the research group Mathematica Policy Research, was required as part of a $50 million U.S. Department of Education grant that TFA received in 2010 to help it recruit and place more teachers in the neediest schools. It was designed to measure the quality of the new teachers recruited and trained between 2011 and 2013.

The study looked at 156 lower elementary school teachers — prekindergarten through fifth grade — from 36 schools across 10 states. TFA teachers were compared with non-TFA teachers at the same school, in the same grade level, who covered the same subjects. The study’s authors noted the results reflect similar findings in previous, large-scale random studies, published in 2004 and 2013.

TFA had planned to use the Department of Education grant to increase the size of its teaching team by more than 80% by September 2014, but fell short of that goal, according to the study. By the 2012–13 school year, it had increased its teaching pool by only 25%, from 8,217 to 10,251 teachers nationwide. The number of new applications are down this year, for the second year in a row.

TIME Education

Virginia Women’s College to Close Due to ‘Insurmountable’ Financial Challenges

Sweet Briar College on Oct. 25, 2006 in Sweet Briar, Virginia.
Charles Ommanney—Getty Images Sweet Briar College on Oct. 25, 2006 in Sweet Briar, Virginia.

Amid declining interest in single-sex higher education

Sweet Briar College, a private women’s college in rural Virginia, announced Tuesday it will close in August due to “insurmountable financial challenges.”

The school’s board of directors came to the decision after a year-long study concluded there was no viable way for the women’s college to continue its operations, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The college’s president, James F. Jones, said the school had been offering tuition discounts to buffer against decreasing enrollment, as interest in single-sex education declines, and as small liberal arts colleges continue to face financial pressures.

According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Sweet Briar enrolled 700 women this year, 93 fewer than two years ago.

“The liberal arts college sector is embattled now on so many different fronts,” Jones told the Times-Dispatch. “The diversity of American higher education—the fact that there are so many different schools of all sorts of hues—is really imperiled right now.”

Sweet Briar will provide an on-campus college fair to help students in the transfer process, while also offering assistance to students admitted to Sweet Briar for this fall.

[Richmond Times-Dispatch]

TIME Crime

Homeless Ex-Convict Killed by LAPD Was Wanted, U.S. Marshals Say

Charley Saturmin Robinet after his arrest for robbery in February 2000.
Ventura County Sheriff's Office /AP Charley Saturmin Robinet after his arrest for robbery in February 2000.

Man had active warrant for violating probation in a bank robbery case

(LOS ANGELES) — A homeless ex-convict killed on Skid Row by Los Angeles police had an active warrant for violating probation in a bank robbery case, a U.S. marshal said Tuesday.

The federal warrant was issued Jan. 9 for 39-year-old Charley Saturmin Robinet after he didn’t provide monthly reports to a probation officer in November, December and January, Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Cordova said.

A law enforcement official identified Robinet as the man killed Sunday by police. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and talked to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Robinet was released from prison on May 12 after being convicted in 2000 for holding up a Wells Fargo branch and pistol-whipping an employee to pay for acting classes.

During the confrontation Sunday, Robinet tried to grab a probationary officer’s gun before three officers shot him, authorities said.

Robinet was a French national who was convicted of three federal charges. He had served roughly 14 years for the bank robbery, the official said.

Robinet acknowledged 15 years ago that he was in the U.S. illegally but his immigration status at the time of his death is unknown.

He was arrested in the bank robbery along with an accomplice and a getaway driver after they tried to rob the bank in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

The three officers who fired their weapons on Sunday in the videotaped struggle were veterans of the Skid Row beat who had special training to deal with mentally ill and other people in the downtrodden area, police leaders said.

But the rookie officer who cried out that the man had his gun, leading to the shooting, had considerably less experience, and police didn’t immediately say how much training he had received in dealing with mentally ill people. All officers must go through at least an 11-hour course.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said some of the veteran officers had “completed our most extensive mental illness training over a 36-hour course.” Initial signs showed the officers used what they had learned during the confrontation, despite the outcome, he said.

“The way you have conversations, the way you offer options, the way that you give some space, the body language that you portray, the way that you escalate, all of that is part of the training,” Beck said Monday. “I will make judgment on that when I review the totality of the investigation, but on the face of it, it appears they did try all of that.”

The shooting was captured on video but exactly what happened remained unclear. The footage has been viewed by millions of people online.

Several dozen people rallied Tuesday in protest of the shooting. There was a moment of silence, and participant Patrisse Cullors declared the shooting site to be “sacred ground.”

Footage showed the homeless man reaching toward the rookie officer’s waistband, Beck said. The officer’s gun was later found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon, Beck said.

“You can hear the young officer who was primarily engaged in the confrontation saying that ‘He has my gun. He has my gun,'” Beck said. “He says it several times, with conviction.”

The three other officers then opened fire.

The man who was shot was black, as is the rookie officer who was just short of completing his probationary year on the force, police said.

The violence had echoes of the August police shooting of 25-year-old Ezell Ford, whose death in a struggle with Los Angeles officers brought demonstrations in the city. Ford was unarmed. Police said he was shot after reaching for an officer’s gun.

Video was taken came from multiple perspectives, including two witnesses recording from their phones and cameras worn by two of the officers who fired their weapons.

Beck said officers had arrived to investigate a robbery report and the homeless man refused to obey their commands and became combative.

A security camera outside a homeless shelter about 75 feet away showed the man pushed over a neighbor’s tent and the two people had a dispute. When officers arrived, they tried to speak to the suspect.

He turned and jumped into his tent, and officers appeared to pull it up and over him to roust him from inside. The man jumped out flailing and kicking before ending up on the ground.

Beck said officers didn’t know if the suspect was arming himself. Stun guns “appeared to have little effect, and he continued to violently resist,” Beck said.

One witness began filming from a closer perspective.

As the man took swings, four officers wrestled him to the ground. The struggle became blurry and distant, but shouting could be heard, followed by five apparent gunshots.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s inspector general and the city’s district attorney are investigating the shooting.

Two of the officers suffered minor injuries, including the rookie officer, who is on crutches. All four officers are on paid leave.


Alabama Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriage

The Alabama Supreme Court ordered the state's judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — The Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, saying a previous federal ruling that gay-marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution does not preclude them from following state law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The all-Republican court sided with the argument offered by a pair of conservative organizations when they appealed a decision last month by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Mobile, who ruled that both Alabama’s constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Six justices concurred in the 134-page opinion, which wasn’t signed, but the court’s most outspoken opponent of gay marriage, Chief Justice Roy Moore, recused himself.

Immediately after Granade’s ruling, Moore told probate judges across the state they were not obliged to issue same-sex marriage licenses. His stance created widespread confusion, prompting some judges to refuse to issue the licenses and others to shut down their operations for all couples, gay and straight, until they could get a clear answer.

Justice Jim Main agreed with the result but said he has concerns about procedural aspects “of this highly unusual case.”

In a dissent, Justice Greg Shaw said it was “unfortunate” that federal courts refused to delay gay marriage in the state until the U.S. Supreme Court could settle the issue nationally. But, Shaw said, the state Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to consider the issue.

The court released the decision while Gov. Robert Bentley and most state leaders were assembled in Montgomery for the state of the state address. A spokeswoman for Bentley said the administration was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said he was “very excited” about the decision blocking judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We are concerned about the family and the danger that same-sex marriage will have. It will be a devastating blow to the family, which is already struggling,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said the decision will give “some stability” in Alabama until the U.S Supreme Court rules later this year. An attorney couples who filed suit to allow gay marriages said the court showed “callous disregard” in the decision and overstepped its bounds by declaring that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages is constitutional, something the justices hadn’t been asked to consider.

“It is deeply unfortunate that even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The court’s ruling Tuesday came in response to a request from the Alabama Policy Institute and the Baptist-run Alabama Citizens Action Program to halt same-sex unions after Granade’s ruling.

TIME Military

Pentagon Calls Briefing on Mosul Offensive a Mistake by CentCom

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey listens to testimony during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing
Joshua Roberts—Reuters Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey listens to testimony during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015.

It now appears likely the offensive won't begin this spring

(WASHINGTON ) — A U.S. military officer’s media briefing about plans for an Iraqi-led ground offensive in Mosul, including its expected timing, amounted to a mistaken disclosure of “military secrets,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.

The briefer, whose presentation for reporters at the Pentagon on Feb. 19 was authorized by U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. wanted the Iraqis to launch the offensive in Mosul in April or May, although he also said it might go later.

“That clearly was neither accurate information nor, had it been accurate, would have been information that should be blurted out to the press,” Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “So it’s wrong on both scores.”

It now appears likely that the offensive will not begin this spring, with Iraq’s security forces requiring more time for U.S.-organized training. It has been widely known for months that the offensive is in the planning stages and that it would likely mark a decisive moment in the campaign to dislodge the Islamic State from Iraq.

Islamic State fighters overran Mosul last June. Iraqi government forces folded quickly, leading to the start of a U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq in August.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was testifying alongside Carter, said he had discussed the Mosul briefing with Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command.

“He’s conducting an internal inquiry,” Dempsey said, adding that he is confident Austin will “take the appropriate action.” He did not say what that might be.

The briefing was done by an officer at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. He spoke by phone to a group of reporters in the Pentagon on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by Central Command.

The episode is remarkable in at least two respects. It was unusual for the U.S. military to disclose in advance the expected timing of an offensive as well as details about the makeup of the Iraqi force that would undertake it. And it was curious that a secretary of defense would wait nearly two weeks after such a briefing to denounce it publicly for having spilled military secrets.

Asked about it by reporters twice last weekend, Carter was more circumspect.

“The important thing is that it will get done when it can be done successfully,” he said last Friday, referring to the Mosul offensive. “And even if I knew exactly when that was going to be, I wouldn’t tell you.” Asked to comment again the following day, Carter said it’s important to keep the public informed, “consistent with security and other considerations.”

On Tuesday he was more pointed and expansive in directly criticizing Central Command.

“It is important that we be open as a department — not with military secrets and not with war plans, which was the mistake made in this case — but we do try to keep the country informed of what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s about protecting them. It is a democracy. And so, openness is important but it has to have limits when it comes to security matters, and those limits obviously weren’t respected in this case.”

TIME justice

Ferguson Reviewing Federal Report on Police Force

Police are deployed to keep peace along Florissant Avenue on Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Police are deployed to keep peace along Florissant Avenue on Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Report culminates probe after Michael Brown shooting last summer

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — The St. Louis suburb of Ferguson says it’s received a copy of the Justice Department report on its investigation into the police force.

The city issued a statement Tuesday saying it would wait to comment about the investigation that law enforcement officials say found sweeping patterns of racial bias.

The report culminates a probe into a police department that commanded national attention after an officer shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, last summer.

The city says Justice Department officials supplied a copy of the report to the mayor, city manager, police chief and city attorney during a meeting Tuesday in downtown St. Louis.

The city’s statement offered no details. The city says it’s reviewing the report and will comment Wednesday after the Justice Department makes it public.

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