LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was driving more than 80 mph — nearly twice the posted speed limit — on a downhill stretch of road when he lost control of an SUV and crashed in a wreck that seriously injured the golf superstar. Sheriff Alex Villanueva blamed the Feb. 23 crash outside Los Angeles solely on excessive speed and Woods’ loss of control behind the wheel. The athlete will not face any citations for his third high-profile collision in 11 years. “The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway,” the sheriff told a news conference. Woods was driving 84 to 87 mph in an area with a speed limit of 45 mph, Villanueva said. No one else was hurt, and no other vehicles were involved. There was no evidence that the golfer tried to brake, and investigators believe Woods may have inadvertently stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal in a panic, said sheriff’s Capt. James Powers, who oversees the sheriff’s station closest to the crash site. Woods was wearing a seat belt at the time, and the vehicle’s airbags deployed. He told deputies that he had not taken medication or consumed alcohol before the crash. Detectives did not seek search warrants for Woods’ blood samples, which could have been screened for drugs or alcohol, or his cellphone. Authorities said there was no evidence of impairment or of distracted driving, so they did not have probable cause to get warrants. Investigators did search the SUV’s data recorder, known as a black box, which revealed the vehicle’s speed.
Kept knee on Floyd’s neck area
MINNEAPOLIS — Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck area — and was bearing down with most of his weight — the entire 9 1/2 minutes the Black man lay facedown with his hands cuffed behind his back, a use-of-force expert testified Wednesday at Chauvin’s murder trial. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution witness, said that based on his review of video evidence, Chauvin applied pressure to Floyd’s neck or neck area from the time officers began pinning Floyd to the ground until paramedics began to move him to a stretcher. “That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?” prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked as he showed the jury a composite of five still images. “Correct,” replied Stiger, who on Tuesday testified that the force used against Floyd was excessive. Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by pointing out what he said were moments in the video footage when Chauvin’s knee did not appear to be on Floyd’s neck but on his shoulder blade area or the base of his neck. Stiger did not give much ground, saying the officer’s knee in some of the contested images still seemed to be near Floyd’s neck, though he agreed his weight might have shifted at times. In other testimony, the lead Minnesota state investigator on the case, James Reyerson, initially agreed with Nelson that Floyd seemed to say in a police body-camera video of his arrest, “I ate too many drugs.” But when a prosecutor played a longer clip of the video, Reyerson said he believed what Floyd really said was “I ain’t do no drugs.”
Wrongful death lawsuit settled
MADISON, Wis. — The federal government has agreed to pay $1 million to the children of an Army veteran who froze to death after he was discharged from a Veterans Affairs hospital in Wisconsin. The family of Vance Perry filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government in December. Perry’s five children said the hospital in Madison was aware of their father’s mental condition, which put him at risk of wandering away, and that staff knew he could not return to his residence on his own. The family’s attorney, Terrence Polich, said someone at Memorial Veterans Hospital failed to make sure Perry got in a cab that had been called for him. The 57-year-old father was found dead on New Year’s Eve 2018 in a downtown parking garage a day after he left the hospital. The temperature had dipped to 6 below zero Fahrenheit the night before, The settlement agreement does not include an admission of guilt or liability by the federal government. Perry had served in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1984, when he was honorably discharged.
Worker stole $124K in gift cards
WHEELING, W.Va. — A Walmart worker has been accused of stealing $124,000 in gift cards over a five-month period. Kenneth Werkau of Clarington, Ohio, was indicted Wednesday in federal court in Wheeling on three counts of wire fraud. Prosecutors said Werkau, 63, was employed as an associate at a Walmart in Moundsville. He is accused of stealing and activating the gift cards from September 2019 through January 2020. If convicted, Werkau could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.
College track coach charged
BOSTON — A former track and field coach at Boston’s Northeastern University was arrested Wednesday and charged with using bogus social media accounts to try to trick female student-athletes into sending him nude photos of themselves. Steve Waithe, 28, of Chicago, is accused of creating fake social media accounts to contact track and field athletes and offering to help get rid of compromising photos of them he claimed to have found online. Starting in at least February 2020, Waithe would send pictures he had obtained of the victims and try to persuade them to send more explicit photos to him so he could “reverse image search.” Waithe also would regularly ask to use female athletes’ cellphones at practice and meets so that he could film their form. One victim told authorities that at least once she saw Waithe scrolling on her phone instead of recording. Waithe is charged with cyberstalking and wire fraud. Waithe worked at Northeastern from October 2018 until February 2019, when, the school says, he was fired as a result of a university investigation into his “inappropriate conduct toward female student athletes.”
Rep’s suit against tabloid tossed
LOS ANGELES — A lawsuit by former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill of California against the Daily Mail was dismissed Wednesday by a judge who said the tabloid was protected under the First Amendment when it published nude photos of her. Judge Yolanda Orozco wrote in her decision that she accepted the Daily Mail’s argument that the publication of the photos was “a matter of public issue or public interest.” Hill’s lawyer, Carrie Goldberg, indicated her client would appeal. “I sued the Daily Mail for their publication of my nonconsensual nude images,” Hill wrote on Twitter. “Today, we lost in court because a judge — not a jury — thinks revenge porn is free speech,” Hill has also sued her ex-husband, Kenneth Heslep, and conservative news site redstate.com, alleging they distributed “nonconsensual porn” that helped torpedo her political career. Hill, 33, resigned from Congress in 2019 after nude pictures of her and an aide were leaked. She acknowledged having an inappropriate affair with a female campaign aide but denied allegations of a relationship with a male congressional staffer. A relationship with a congressional staffer would have violated House rules.
6 held in detention center probe
CONCORD, N.H. — Six former staffers at New Hampshire’s state-run youth detention center were arrested Wednesday in connection with the abuse of 11 children over the course of a decade, including one who continued working with children for nearly 20 years after he is accused of holding a boy down while colleagues raped him. The Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly known as the Youth Development Center, has been under investigation since July 2019, when two former counselors were charged with raping a teenage boy 82 times in the 1990s. Those charges were dropped last year in order to strengthen the expanded investigation, but both men were arrested again Wednesday and charged with rape, the attorney general’s office said. Two others also were charged with rape, while other two were charged with being accomplices to rape. The allegations span from 1994 to 2005. The attorney general’s office didn’t comment on the possibility of further arrests, but said the latest developments were “merely a step forward” and that the investigation will continue. Several of those arrested Wednesday were previously named in a civil lawsuit filed last year in which more than 200 men and women allege they were physically or sexually abused as children by 150 staffers at the Manchester facility from 1963 to 2018. According to their attorney, children were gang raped by counselors, beaten while raped, forced to compete for food in “fight clubs” set up by counselors and locked in solitary confinement for weeks or months.
Slammed door before groping her
ALBANY, N.Y. — An aide who accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of groping her at his official residence told a newspaper in her first public interview it was a frightening physical encounter in which the Democrat slammed a door and said “I don’t care” when she warned someone might see what he was doing. “It was almost like I felt like a piece of garbage to him. I felt degraded,” she said. The interview published by the Times Union of Albany on Wednesday adds new details to the most serious accusation against Cuomo, a Democrat who is being investigated after a series of women accused him of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior. The woman, who still works in the governor’s office, spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy, although her identity is known within the governor’s circle. The woman told the Times Union she had been summoned to the mansion on a weekday in November to help Cuomo with a problem with his iPhone. When she reached his office on the mansion’s second floor, she said, he rose from his desk and began groping her. “That wasn’t just a hug,” she said. “He went for it and I kind of like was, ‘Oh, the door is right there.’ … I was mortified that a woman who works here is going to come in and see. … I was terrified of that happening, because that’s not who I am and that’s not what I’m here for.” “I said to him, I said, ‘You’re going to get us in trouble,’” she recalled. “I didn’t know what else to say. … It was pretty much like ‘What are you doing?’ That’s when he slammed the door (shut). He said, ‘I don’t care.’” He then came toward her again. “He came right back and he pulled me close and all I remember is seeing his hand, his big hand,” the woman said. The governor had reached under her blouse and grasped one of her breasts over her bra. “I don’t remember actually saying the word ‘Stop.’ I think I said, ‘You’re crazy.’ I do remember saying that, and that’s when he ultimately stopped. … Me saying ‘You’re crazy’ — that was definitely not something that he wants to hear. It definitely was a hit to his ego. … And then it was almost like instantly he was done. … He turned around and walked back to his desk. He didn’t say anything. I walked myself out to the front door and nothing was said.”
Church now a $1.3 million home
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A 1928 church has been renovated into a four bedroom home, complete with a large stained glass window of Jesus. The home in St. Petersburg, Florida, is slated for closing at $1.3 million later this week, listing agent Bryan Belcher told the Tampa Bay Times. The home’s great room features high ceilings with the original exposed scissor trusses, and comes with a few pews. “It’s such a unique property. As soon as you walk in through the front door into the main great room, it’s just ‘wow,’ because of how high the ceilings are,” said Belcher, who works for Coastal Properties Group. Belcher said Bluewater Builders bought the church for $580,000 in 2018, intending to tear it down and use the lot to build new homes. Developers instead demolished part of the structure, and got rid of the parking lot and built three homes. But they kept the original church intact, converting it into a home, and added a new saltwater pool, the newspaper reported. “The builder put high-end finishes on it that put it over the top,” Belcher said. The property went on the market in late March. Belcher said the first prospective buyers arrived at 9 a.m., and sent an offer within 30 minutes.
Student charged in frat hazing
A University of Mississippi student faces aggravated assault charges after police said he sprayed cleaner into the mouth of a fraternity pledge during a hazing ritual, causing serious internal injuries. Adam Peavy, a lawyer for the injured student, said the hazing took place at an Oct. 11 ceremony where pledges were supposed to receive fraternity pins at the Pi Kappa Alpha house in Oxford. “He was blindfolded and poisoned,” Peavy said. “That’s what happened.” University police charged James Bowes Higgins with aggravated assault on Nov. 17. A student who witnessed the incident told a university police officer that pledges were blindfolded with their neckties and made to sit in a hallway. Active members then “yelled, screamed, threw liquids and things” on the pledges, and made them squat against the wall while reciting phrases. The police report says Higgins, a fraternity member, “grabbed a bottle of bleach or surface cleaner and started spraying it on a few pledges. During this time, one of the pledges threw up from inhaling some of the substances in his mouth, and another one had to go to the hospital because the bleach got into his eyes.” Peavy said someone asked his client if he wanted water but instead sprayed cleaner into his mouth, with the student swallowing “two or three gulps.” The student immediately began vomiting and went to the hospital the next day when vomiting continued. “He hoped, he wished, he was going to get better, but it’s gotten progressively worse,” Peavy said. The lawyer said the student has suffered serious damage to his esophagus, can eat only sometimes, and then only things such as macaroni and cheese or protein shakes. The once-burly young man has lost more than 50 pounds.
Zoo presents newborn giraffes
MIAMI — A male giraffe has been doing his part to promote Zoo Miami’s breeding program, with two of his long-legged babies born in the last few days. After a weekend of mother-and-child bonding, a male calf born to 14-year-old Mia made his debut on Monday, three days after the 181 pound giraffe’s birth. He was the 54th giraffe born at the Miami zoo. It didn’t take long for the 55th baby giraffe to make an entrance. On Monday, 6-year-old Zuri gave birth to a female calf weighing 119 pounds. Zuri and the calf are expected to rejoin the herd as early as Wednesday. The two calves, still unnamed, are the first offspring of 4-year-old father Malcolm. The risk to giraffe populations in the wild has recently been elevated from a “species of least concern” to “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature due to significant reductions in their populations over the last several years.
Taiwan will fight to the very last
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s foreign minister on Wednesday said the island will defend itself “to the very last day” if attacked by China. Joseph Wu said China’s attempts at conciliation while engaging in military intimidation are sending “mixed signals” to the island’s residents. China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be won over peacefully or by force. Wu noted China flew 10 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Monday and deployed an aircraft carrier group for exercises near Taiwan. “We are willing to defend ourselves, that’s without any question,” Wu told reporters. “We will fight a war if we need to fight a war, and if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day, then we will defend ourselves to the very last day.” China does not recognize Taiwan’s democratically elected government, and leader Xi Jinping has said “unification” between the sides cannot be put off indefinitely. “On the one hand they want to charm the Taiwanese people by sending their condolences, but at the same time they are also sending their military aircraft and military vessels closer to Taiwan aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s people,” Wu said. Taiwan has responded by boosting its high-tech industries and unofficial foreign relations, particularly with its key partners the U.S., Japan and others, and by building up its own defense industries, including a submarine development program, while buying upgraded warplanes, missiles and other military hardware from the U.S. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy says the carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its strike group reentered the South China Sea on Saturday to “conduct routine operations.” It is the second time the strike group has entered the waterway this year as part of its 2021 deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
156M relief payments issued
WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department said Wednesday it has issued more than 156 million payments as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan, including 25 million payments that were primarily to Social Security beneficiaries who hadn’t filed 2019 or 2020 tax returns. The direct payments of as much as $1,400 per person were the cornerstone promise of Biden’s $1.9 trillion package to contain the pandemic and revive the U.S. economy. Roughly $372 billion has been paid out since March 12, a sum that likely boosted hiring last month as Americans had more money to spend.
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