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A dirty secret of the American judicial system is that juries are hardly fair and impartial

Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod.
Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod. (REUTERS/Art Lien)

Imagine you are a defendant awaiting trial on criminal charges that could send you to prison for the rest of your life. You are sitting at the counsel table during voir dire, the process by which a jury is selected before a trial.

The prosecutor asks a potential juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?” The potential juror responds: “I would have to vote guilty.”

Your trial judge pipes up. He’s supposed to ensure that you receive a fair trial and that the jurors who will sit in judgment upon you are neutral, objective, and willing to see and hear the evidence with an open mind. The judge asks the prospective juror: “Could you return a verdict of not guilty if the government doesn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?” The would-be juror responds: “I don’t think I would be able to.”

The prosecutor — who wants this juror on the panel because he wants to convict you — presses on. He asks the juror: “Let’s say the victim takes the stand [and] you flat-out don’t believe her. In fact, you think she’s lying. You look at her [and conclude], ‘I don’t believe a word coming out of her mouth.’ Are you going to convict this man anyway?”

The potential juror responds: “That depends. I still feel he was at fault.”

How would you feel if this juror were allowed to join the panel that determined your fate? Would you feel as though you had received a fair trial by an impartial panel, as the Sixth Amendment commands? Or would you feel that the trial judge had failed to protect your presumption of innocence?

My guess is you would feel cheated. I know I would. But yet this precise scenario unfolded in California in 2009. This juror was allowed to serve on this trial. And to date, no judge has declared it a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Now, in this particular case, the defendant, Jose Felipe Velasco, was accused of an extremely heinous crime. He was an alleged serial child rapist who had gotten a 14-year-old girl pregnant after having some form of sex with her 21 times. But that should not change our minds about whether this man should be presumed innocent and be entitled to a fair trial. Indeed, this is precisely why we have constitutional rights in criminal cases — so that fairness and due process come even to the despised.

R. Scott Moxley, a veteran reporter and columnist for OC Weekly, brought this story to national prominence this week — and it’s a remarkably ugly picture in every way. Not only were the charges awful, not only is this defendant as unsympathetic a figure as the criminal justice system churns out, but the way the case was handled was ignoble, too. Thousands of years’ worth of the presumption of innocence shouldn’t go out the window just because a defendant is accused of heinous crimes.

 

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The myth of the impartial juror

Crazy story from the OC Weekly about a sex crimes case in California.

After an Orange County prosecutor gave an opening statement, Juror 112 notified [Judge David] Hoffer that based on her own experiences she believes criminals should forgo trials in such sexual assault cases and go straight to prison to spare victims additional turmoil.

The prosecutor then asked the juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?”

Juror 112 responded, “I would have to vote guilty.”

Statements by lawyers are not evidence, and Hoffer followed up with the juror, according to court transcripts reviewed by the Weekly.

The judge asked if she could return a verdict of not guilty if the government couldn’t prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I don’t think I would be able to,” the juror replied.

 

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Teen Held on 26 Counts in High School Bloodbath

A 16-year-old Pennsylvania boy was charged Wednesday evening with two dozen felony counts after 20 students and a security guard were stabbed or slashed at a suburban Pittsburgh high school.

The boy, identified as Alex Hribal, a sophomore at Franklin Senior Regional High School in Murrysville, was held without bail on four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of carrying a prohibited weapon.

At least four people remained in intensive care with life-threatening injuries after the rampage Wednesday morning at Franklin Senior Regional High School in the town of Murrysville.

Hribal was remanded to juvenile detention pending a preliminary hearing April 30 in Westmoreland County Magisterial Court.

Prosecutors told Judge Charles R. Conway that Hribal “randomly and indiscriminately” wielded his knives in a hallway at the school and indicated that “he wanted to die.”

They said it was unclear whether he was competent to stand trial.

Attorneys for Hribal — who sat head-down in court in a hospital gown, bearing numerous bandages and stitches with his hands and feet shackled — asked for a psychiatric evaluation.

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Image:Parents and students embrace along School Road near Franklin Regional High School after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school

Sean Stipp / Tribune Review via AP

School Stabbing Spree

School Stabbing Spree: 20 Hurt in Pittsburgh-Area Bloodbath

A student flashing two knives went on a stabbing rampage through the classrooms and halls of a high school outside Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, authorities said. At least 19 students and a security guard were hurt, some with life-threatening injuries.

The suspect, a 16-year-old sophomore, was in custody and being questioned by police, authorities said. His motive was unclear, said Dan Stevens, a Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman.

The first photo of the suspect emerged several hours after the mayhem. NBC News is blurring the face of the teen in the photo, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, because of his age. He had not been charged or identified.

Guy Wathen / Tribune-Review

A suspect in the Franklin Regional High School stabbings leaves the Murrysville Police Station on Wednesday. Image blurred to protect identity.

The student was “flashing two knives around” as he moved through the classrooms and a first-floor hallway, said Thomas Seefeld, the Murrysville police chief. A principal tackled the stabber, he said. The security guard suffered a stomach wound.

The attack happened at Franklin Regional High School, in the suburb of Murrysville, just after doors opened for the day. A student described panic in the halls.

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Teen stabs 22 at Pittsburgh-area high school

By Associated Press

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Flailing away with two kitchen knives, a 16-year-old boy with a “blank expression” stabbed and slashed 21 students and a security guard in the crowded halls of his suburban Pittsburgh high school Wednesday before an assistant principal tackled him.

At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy whose liver was pierced by a knife thrust that narrowly missed his heart and aorta, doctors said.

The rampage — which came after decades in which U.S. schools geared much of their emergency planning toward mass shootings, not stabbings — set off a screaming stampede, left blood on the floor and walls, and brought teachers rushing to help the victims.

A man and woman walk away from Franklin Regional High School after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wedne...

A man and woman walk away from Franklin Regional High School after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Brian F. Henry) PITTSBURGH OUT

Police shed little light on the motive.

The suspect, Alex Hribal, was taken into custody and treated for a minor hand wound, then was brought into court in shackles and a hospital gown and charged with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Authorities said he would be prosecuted as an adult.

The attack unfolded in the morning just minutes before the start of classes at 1,200-student Franklin Regional High School, in an upper-middle-class area 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. It was over in about five minutes, during which the boy ran wildly down about 200 feet of hallway, slashing away with knives about 8 to 10 inches long, police said.

Nate Moore, 15, said he saw the boy tackle and stab a freshman. He said he going to try to break it up when the boy got up and slashed his face, opening a wound that required 11 stitches.

“It was really fast. It felt like he hit me with a wet rag because I felt the blood splash on my face. It spurted up on my forehead,” he said.

The attacker “had the same expression on his face that he has every day, which was the freakiest part,” Moore said. “He wasn’t saying anything. He didn’t have any anger on his face. It was just a blank expression.”

Assistant Principal Sam King finally tackled the boy and disarmed him, and a Murrysville police officer who is regularly assigned to the school handcuffed him, police said.

Doctors said they expect all the victims to survive, despite deep abdominal puncture wounds in some cases.

King’s son told The Associated Press that his father was treated at a hospital, though authorities have said he did not suffer any knife wounds.

“He says he’s OK. He’s a tough cookie and sometimes hides things, but I believe he’s OK,” Zack King said. He added: “I’m proud of him.”

“There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a visit to the stricken town. “Students who stayed with their friends and didn’t leave their friends.”

He also commended cafeteria workers, teachers and teacher’s aides who put themselves at risk to help during the attack.

As for what set off the attack, Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said investigators were looking into reports of a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before. Seefeld didn’t specify whether the suspect received or made the call.

The FBI joined the investigation and went to the boy’s house, where authorities said they planned to confiscate and search his computer.

While several bloody stabbing rampages at schools in China have made headlines in the past few years, schools in the U.S. have concentrated their emergency preparations on shooting rampages.

Nevertheless, there have been at least two major stabbing attacks at U.S. schools over the past year, one at a community college in Texas last April that wounded at least 14 people, and another, also in Texas, that killed a 17-year-old student and injured three others at a high school in September.

On Wednesday, Mia Meixner, 16, said the rampage touched off a “stampede of kids” yelling, “Run! Get out of here! Someone has a knife!”

The boy had a “blank look,” she said. “He was just kind of looking like he always does, not smiling, not scowling or frowning.”

Meixner and Moore called the attacker a shy boy who largely kept to himself, but they said he was not an outcast and they had no reason to think he might be violent.

“He was never mean to anyone, and I never saw people be mean to him,” Meixner said. “I never saw him with a particular group of friends.”

Michael Float, 18, said he had just gotten to school when he saw “blood all over the floor” and smeared on the wall near the main entrance. Then he saw a wounded student.

“He had his shirt pulled up and he was screaming, ‘Help! Help!’” Float said. “He had a stab wound right at the top right of his stomach, blood pouring down.”

Float said he saw a teacher applying pressure to the wound of another student.

The security guard was wounded after intervening early in the melee, police said. He was treated and released.

About five minutes elapsed between the time the campus police officer summoned help over the radio at 7:13 a.m. and the boy was disarmed, the police chief said.

Someone, possibly a student, pulled a fire alarm during the attack, Seefeld said. Although that created chaos, the police chief said, it emptied out the school more quickly, and “that was a good thing that that was done.”

Also, a girl with “an amazing amount of composure” applied pressure to a schoolmate’s wounds and probably kept the victim from bleeding to death, said Dr. Mark Rubino at Forbes Regional Medical Center.

Public safety and school officials said an emergency plan worked as well as could be expected. The district conducted an emergency exercise three months ago and a full-scale drill about a year ago.

“We haven’t lost a life, and I think that’s what we have to keep in mind,” said county public safety spokesman Dan Stevens.

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Associated Press writers Mike Rubinkam in Allentown and Jesse Washington in Murrysville, Pa., and AP news researchers Judith Ausuebel and Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.

A police officer guards the entrance Heritage Elementary School as students are dismissed after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding s...

A police officer guards the entrance Heritage Elementary School as students are dismissed after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Sean Stipp) PITTSBURGH OUT

Students walk past a row of buses as they leave the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife ...

Students walk past a row of buses as they leave the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Students are escorted from the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at n...

Students are escorted from the campus of the Franklin Regional School District after more then a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at nearby Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens, left, looks on as Franklin Regional School District Superintendent Gennaro Piraino pauses whi...

Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens, left, looks on as Franklin Regional School District Superintendent Gennaro Piraino pauses while addressing the media during a news conference outside of Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. More than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Brian F. Henry) PITTSBURGH OUT

A parent holds hands with a Franklin Regional High School while picking up the student after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding susp...

A parent holds hands with a Franklin Regional High School while picking up the student after more than a dozen students were stabbed by a knife wielding suspect at the school on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Murrysville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and is being questioned. (AP Photo/Tribune Review, Sean Stipp) PITTSBURGH OUT

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Gunman in Fort Hood shooting had behavioral issues, authorities say

 

An Iraq war veteran who was grappling with mental health issues opened fire at Fort Hood, Tex., in an attack that left four people dead and 16 wounded Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary law enforcement and military reports. The gunfire sent tremors of fear across a sprawling Army post still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.Many basic details about the shooting remained unclear in the chaotic hours after the first calls for help around 4 p.m., but senior U.S. law enforcement officials said the incident did not appear to be linked to any foreign terrorist organizations. The shooter was among those who died, the officials said.

The officials identified the shooter as Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, 34, a military truck driver, who was dressed in his standard-issue green camouflage uniform. Lopez opened fire in two locations on the vast central Texas post, inside a building housing the 1st Medical Brigade and in a facility belonging to the 49th Transportation Battalion.

Police spent Wednesday night searching his apartment in Killeen, the city that abuts the Army facility. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commander of Fort Hood, said the soldier, whom he did not identify by name, served four months in Iraq in 2011.

Milley said the shooter “had behavioral health and mental health issues.” He said the soldier, who self-reported a traumatic brain injury and was taking anti-depressants, had been under examination to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder. “We are digging deep into his background,” Milley said.

Milley said the soldier opened fire with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was purchased recently but was not authorized to be brought on the post. He was eventually confronted by a female military police officer. He put his hands up but then pulled out a gun from under his jacket. “She engaged,” Milley said, and then the soldier put the gun to his head and shot himself.

The shooting was the third major gun attack at a U.S. military installation in five years, leaving the nation grappling with the prospect of yet more flag-draped funerals for troops killed on the homefront. A government contractor went on a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard in September, leaving 12 people dead. In 2009, Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30.

Doctors at the Scott & White hospital in Temple, Tex., said Wednesday that they have treated eight of the wounded and that one more was on the way. Three of the patients were in critical condition in the ICU, and five were in serious condition. Seven of them were male, and one was female. Their injuries ranged from mild to life-threatening, a majority of them caused by single-gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen.

President Obama said he was “heartbroken that something like this might have happened again.” Speaking during a fundraising trip to Chicago, he pledged “to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

 

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Four killed in shooting at Fort Hood; gunman dead, multiple injuries

A shooting at the Fort Hood military installation in Texas left at least four people dead, including the gunman, and more than a dozen were injured, according to authorities.

The gunman, identified by multiple government sources as Army Specialist Ivan Lopez, took his own life, officials said.

Lopez, 33, of Kileen, Tex., was wearing an Army uniform at the time of the shooting, Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters.

Four people were taken to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Tex., and another two are being brought there, said Glen Couchman, the facility’s chief medical officer. Their injuries that “range from stable to quite critical,” he said.

The installation was locked down for much of the afternoon and into the evening after the shooting before being lifted shortly before 9 p.m. local time.

Speaking in Chicago, President Obama said his administration was following the shooting closely.

“I want to just assure all of us we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he said. “We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again.”

The base was the site of a shooting in 2009 that ultimately killed 13 people and wounded another 32, the worst mass murder at a military installation in U.S. history. Nidal Hasan was sentenced to death last year for the shooting after being found guilty of premeditated and attempted premeditated murder.

 

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BREAKING: Shooting at Fort Hood Military Base – 1 Death Confirmed

 

Published on Apr 2, 2014

SHOOTING SITUATION STILL ACTIVE, Multiple Gunned Down
FORT HOOD (April 2, 2014) At least one person is dead after a shooting late Wednesday afternoon on Fort Hood, a post spokesman confirmed.
Others were injured in the shooting, but the spokesman didn’t say how many.
The gunman is still at large and the spokesman said the incident is being treated as an active-shooter situation.
Warning sirens sounded late Wednesday afternoon at Fort Hood because of the incident.
A man who said he was a witness told News 10 that about 20 shots were fired in a post motor pool in the area of Motor Pool Road and Tank Destroyer Boulevard.

He said at least three people were hit.

He said the three victims were taken to a hospital.

The post was on lockdown as a result of the shooting, which occurred at around 4:25 p.m.

People on post were told to stay indoors.

A message that scrolled across the top of the post’s website said, “Shelter in place immediately. This is not a test.”

The 1st Calvary Division, which is based at Fort Hood, sent a Twitter alert telling people on base to close doors and stay away from windows.

Texas A&M Central Texas in Killeen canceled evening and night classes Wednesday at Fort Hood and at its Fairway building because of the situation on post.

First responders from surrounding communities were headed to the post.

Bell County sheriff’s deputies and Department Public Safety troopers were also responding, sheriff’s Lt. Donnie Adams said.

Media were being directed to the post’s Visitor’s Center.

On Nov. 5, 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center, killing 12 soldiers and one civilian and wounding 29 others before two Fort Hood civilian police officers shot him.

He is now on the military’s death row.

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VOA News

Police officers detain a protester in central Manezhnaya Square in Moscow,  on March 2, 2014, during an unsanctioned rally against the Russia's military actions in Crimea.

Police officers detain a protester in central Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, on March 2, 2014, during an unsanctioned rally against the Russia’s military actions in Crimea.

RFE/RL

Moscow police have arrested dozens of people protesting against military intervention in Ukraine.

The Interfax news agency quoted police as saying 40 people were detained for “attempts to violate public order” at a protest near the Defense Ministry in central Moscow.

Ovdinfo, a rights group that tracks arrests at demonstrations, put the number of detentions at 100.

Antiwar protesters also gathered at a separate demonstration on Manezhnaya square close to the Kremlin and Red Square, which police cordoned off and blocked with parked buses.

 

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Our News

 

 

Published on Mar 1, 2014

2014 New Year Car Crash. 2014 Аварий The stand off at the Crimean regional parliament in Simferopol can only be ended through negotiation – any attempt to use force of arms could pitch Ukraine i.

Ukraine Tensions Rise Amid Crimea Clashes Pro-Russia separatists and supporters of Ukraine’s new leaders have come head to head outside Crimea’s regional par.

യുക്രൈനില്‍ റഷ്യന്‍ അനുകൂലികളും യൂറോപ്യന്‍ യൂനിയനെ പിന്താങ്ങുന്നവരും തമ്മില്‍ സംഘര്‍ഷം.

Ukraine Tensions Rise Amid Crimea Clashes videolarını Tensions rise on the Crimean peninsula as pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine protesters face off. CNN’s Fred Pl.

The stand off at the Crimean regional parliament in Simferopol can only be ended through negotiation – any attempt to use force of arms could pitch Ukraine i.

Ukraine Tensions Rise Amid Crimea Clashes videolarını Tensions rise on the Crimean peninsula as pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine protesters face off. CNN’s Fred Pl.

Ukraine Tensions Rise Amid Crimea Clashes.

Moscow employs Cold War language to warn its neighbours, as pro-Russia protesters scuffle with pro-Europ.

Ukraine Tensions Rise Amid Crimea Clashes Pro-Russia separatists and supporters of Ukraine’s new leaders have come head to head outside Crimea’s regional par.

26 February 2014 In the regional capital of Simferopol, 10000 Muslim Crimean Tatars rallied in support of Ukraine’s interim leaders, waving Ukrainian flags ..

LATEST UPDATE – RUSSIA MAKE MOVES TO PROTECT BLACK FLEET Join my facebook page -

Tensions rise on the Crimean peninsula as pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine protesters face off. CNNs Fred Pleitgen reports.Ukraine Tensions Rise Amid Crimea Clashe.

The stand off at the Crimean regional parliament in Simferopol can only be ended through negotiation – any attempt to use force of arms could pitch Ukraine i.

The stand off at the Crimean regional parliament in Simferopol can only be ended through negotiation – any attempt to use force of arms could pitch Ukraine i.

Crimea’s regional government building and parliament have been taken over by armed men, Russia’s Interfax news agency has reported, citing a local Tatar lead.

Tensions rise on the Crimean peninsula as pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine protesters face off. CNN’s Fred Pleitgen reports. Tensions rise on the Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine’s acting leader wants to integrate with Europe as Russia recalls its ambassador for urgent consultations. while the country remains divided with pro-.

Ukraine’s acting leader wants to integrate with Europe as Russia recalls its ambassador for urgent consultations. while the country remains divided with pro-.

Clashes Outside the Crimean Parliament In Ukraine Crimean Tatars and Pro-Russian activists clased outside a local parliament building in Ukraine’s Crimean pe.

Ukraine’s acting leader wants to integrate with Europe as Russia recalls its ambassador for urgent consultations. while the country remains divided with pro-.

Ongoing violence in Ukraine over the past few weeks has added further stress to relations between the United States and Russia. What are the issues dividing .

Pro Russia and pro Ukraine groups clash at Crimea rallies Police struggle to keep apart rival groups holding competing rallies in Ukraine’s largely pro-Russi.

Crimean Tatars and Pro-Russian activists clased outside a local parliament building in Ukraines Crimean peninsula. (Feb. . Crimean Tatars and Pro-Russian act.

Crimean Tatars and Pro-Russian activists clased outside a local parliament building in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. (Feb. . SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine; February 26,.

Bottles, stones and flags flew in the air as thousands of pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators clashed in front of the parliament building in Simferopol, the .

 

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Gloria Lee LVMPD via CBS Las Vegas

Shop owner pleads not guilty in puppy arson case

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The Miami Herald

Shop owner pleads not guilty in puppy arson case

  This image provided by the Clark County Detention Center shows Kirk Bills, who has been accused of trying to burn a pet shop where 27 puppies were rescued last month.  Bills has been returned in custody to Las Vegas to face arson and other charges, authorities said Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.
Clark County Detention Center / AP Photo
This image provided by the Clark County Detention Center shows Kirk Bills, who has been accused of trying to burn a pet shop where 27 puppies were rescued last month. Bills has been returned in custody to Las Vegas to face arson and other charges, authorities said Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.

Clark County Detention Center / AP Photo

Associated Press

A pet shop owner pleaded not guilty Monday to torching her Las Vegas business, where firefighters rescued 27 puppies.

Gloria Eun Hye Lee, 35, entered her plea in state court after she was indicted Feb. 14 on 31 felony and misdemeanor charges of arson, conspiracy, burglary and attempted animal cruelty.

Clark County District Court Judge David Barker scheduled her trial for July 7.

Lee’s attorneys, Tom Pitaro and Ozzie Fumo, said outside court that they plan to challenge the indictment and seek a reduction of Lee’s $310,000 bail.

In another courtroom, a judge scheduled a bail hearing Thursday and a preliminary hearing March 10 for co-defendant Kirk Bills.

Bills, 27, was arrested Feb. 7 in his hometown of Crown Point, Ind., and returned to Las Vegas where he’s being held at the Clark County jail. He hasn’t been asked to enter a plea.

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NBC News

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Image: Yulia Tymoshenko freed, leaving hospital

SERGEY KOZLOV / EPA 14 minutes

Applause Erupts As Ukrainian Opposition Leader Freed From Prison

A chief political rival of embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was freed Saturday from prison as the defiant leader struggled to hold on to power as protesters seized control of the presidential palace and the parliament voted to remove him from office.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko waved to supporters from a car as she was driven out of the hospital in the northeastern city if Kharkiv, where she has been treated for a bad back while serving a seven-year sentence since 2011.

“Our country can from this day on see the sun, because dictatorship fell,” Tymoshenko said.

Parliament members had voted to free her after Yanukovych fled the capital of Kiev a day after announcing a pact with opposition leaders. Yanukovych said he is traveling the country to seek advice and will “do everything to stop the bloodshed” that left at least 77 dead, hundreds injured and nearly collapsed the country into a civil war.

“I am not planning to leave the country,” he said in a video televised on local media. “I am not planning to resign. I am a legitimately elected president. I was given guarantees of safety by all the international mediators I worked with.”

Yanukovych claimed his car was shot at, but that he didn’t fear for his life, denouncing some of the opposition protesters as “bandits.”

“I will not sign anything with the bandits who are terrorizing the whole country and Ukrainian people. They are discrediting the country,” he said on UBR television.

Image: UKRAINE-UNREST-EU-RUSSIA-POLITICS-YANUKOVYCH Presidential Press Service / AFP – Getty Images

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych speaks to a local station in Kharkiv on Saturday.

In another strike against the president, the parliament Saturday freed Tymoshenko, who had been imprisoned on charges of abuse of office, which the West had questioned. They also endorsed Oleksandr Turchynov as the new speaker.

The apparent toppling of the pro-Russian looks likely to pull Ukraine away from Moscow’s orbit and closer to Europe.

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The New York Times

Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Are Called

View slide show|13 Photos

Protesters Take Control of Presidential Palace

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

KIEV, Ukraine — Abandoned by his own guards and reviled across the Ukrainian capital but still determined to recover his shredded authority, President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday to denounce what he called a violent coup, as his official residence, his vast, colonnaded office complex and other once impregnable centers of power fell without a fight to throngs of joyous citizens stunned by their triumph.

While Mr. Yanukovych’s nemesis, former Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, was released from a penitentiary hospital, Parliament found the president unable to fulfill his duties and exercised its constitutional powers to set an election for May 25 to select his replacement. But with both Mr. Yanukovych and his Russian patrons speaking of a “coup” carried out by “bandits” and “hooligans,” it was far from clear that the day’s lightning-quick events would be the last act in a struggle that has not just convulsed Ukraine but expanded into an East-West confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War.

President Viktor Yanukovych denounced a “coup” on TV. Presidential Press Service, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the presidential residence a short distance from the capital, protesters carrying clubs and some wearing masks were in control of the entryways Saturday morning and watched as thousands of citizens strolled through the grounds in wonder. “This commences a new life for Ukraine,” said Roman Dakus, a protester-turned-guard, who was wearing a ski helmet and carrying a length of pipe as he blocked a doorway at the compound. “This is only a start,” he added. “We need now to make a new structure and a new system, a foundation for our future, with rights for everybody, and we need to investigate who ordered the violence.”

With the riot police they battled for days having disappeared, the protesters claimed to be in charge of security for the city. There was no sign of looting, either in the city proper or in the presidential compound.

A pugnacious Mr. Yanukovych appeared on television Saturday afternoon, apparently from the eastern city of Kharkiv, near Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, saying he had been forced to leave the capital because of a “coup,” and that he had not resigned, and had no plans to. He said indignantly that his car had been fired upon as he drove away.

“I don’t plan to leave the country. I don’t plan to resign,” he said, speaking in Russian rather than Ukrainian, the country’s official language. “I am a legitimately elected president.” He added: “What is happening today, mostly, it is vandalism, banditism and a coup d’état. This is my assessment and I am deeply convinced of this. I will remain on the territory of Ukraine.” He also complained of “traitors” among his own former supporters but he declined to name them.

Regional governors from eastern Ukraine met in Kharkiv and adopted a resolution resisting the authority of Parliament. They said that until matters were resolved, “we have decided to take responsibility for safeguarding the constitutional order, legality, citizens’ rights and their security on our territories.”

One of the few institutions still taking orders from the president was the official trilingual website of the Ukrainian presidency, which posted a transcript of his defiant television address. But, by evening, the text had appeared only in Ukrainian and Russian, suggesting that his English translator had perhaps jumped ship.

The former nerve center of Mr. Yanukovych’s power, the huge compound of the presidential administration, just a few hundred yards from Independence Square in Kiev, was empty Saturday aside from protesters who patrolled its courtyard and blocked off a nearby street to prevent residents swarming into the building. Ukrainian flags flying outside had all been lowered to half-mast, in honor of those killed by police officers and snipers on Thursday.

Mr. Yanukovych said in his television appearance that he would be traveling to the southeastern part of Ukraine to talk to his supporters — a plan that carried potentially ominous overtones, in that the southeast is the location of the Crimea, the historically Russian section of the country that is the site of a Russian naval base.

The president’s departure from Kiev, just a day after a peace deal with the opposition that he had hoped would keep him in office until at least December, capped three months of streets protests and a week of frenzied violence in the capital that left more than 75 protesters dead. It turned what began in November as a street protest driven by pro-Europe chants and nationalist songs into a momentous but still ill-defined revolution.

With nobody clearly in charge, other than the so far remarkably disciplined fighting squads, lieutenants of Ms. Tymoshenko moved to fill the power vacuum. With Oleksandr V. Turchynov, a former acting prime minister and close ally of Ms. Tymoshenko, presiding over the Parliament, her Fatherland party seemed to be in charge, at least temporarily.

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