The “Dougherty gang” brothers -- accused of robbing a bank, shooting at a police officer and outrunning authorities in multiple states with their sister last summer -- pleaded guilty Thursday to charges in Colorado, where they were apprehended.
Ryan and Dylan Dougherty will be sentenced in April, along with their sister, Lee Grace, who entered her own guilty plea last week. Ryan faces up to 20 years in prison for charges stemming from a chase and shootout in southern Colorado; his sister and brother face up to 28 and 32 years, respectively, the Associated Press reported. All agreed to reduced charges in a deal with prosecutors.
The Doughertys’ crime spree stirred up nationwide interest because of the siblings’ youth -- all are in their 20s -- and its resemblance to a Hollywood screenplay. Ryan and Dylan were carpenters, Lee Grace an exotic dancer. Some dubbed the trio “Bonnie, Clyde & Clyde.”
According to a recent GQ magazine story, Ryan was facing up to 15 years in prison for violating his probation in Florida; he had been convicted of sending sexually explicit text messages to an underage girl. So the siblings hatched a daring -- some would say foolish -- plan.
They packed their Subaru with an AK-47 and nine other guns, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and some clothes and food, and took off with vague hopes of escaping to Mexico, GQ said.
It didn’t take long before a Florida cop tried to pull them over for speeding -- an effort thwarted, he reported, when someone in the Subaru fired off about a dozen rounds. After that, authorities said, the trio robbed a Georgia bank at gunpoint, zipping away with $5,200 in cash. (The siblings still face charges in those states.)
The chase ended in Colorado, where authorities stopped the Subaru with a spike strip and rounded up the Doughertys when they ran.
Photo: Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21, Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26, and Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, have all pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a chase and shootout in southern Colorado. Credit: Pueblo County Sheriff's Office/Associated Press
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.
The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion sounds like a lethal beast, and in many ways, it is.
It's just been crowned the hottest chile pepper on the planet, after testing this week by experts at New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces.
The pepper, which comes from the central south coast of Trinidad, is certifiably potent: Its mean score on the Scoville scale used to grade peppers topped more than 1.2 million heat units, the testing showed. By comparison, a jalapeno logs about 5,000 on the scale.
"You take a bite. It doesn't seem so bad, and then it builds and it builds and it builds. So it is quite nasty," Paul Bosland, renowned pepper expert and director of the chile institute, told the Associated Press.
Researchers were pushed by hot sauce makers, seed producers and others in the spicy food industry to establish the average heat levels for super-hot varieties in an effort to quash unscientific claims of which peppers are actually the hottest.
That's something that hadn't been done before, Bosland said.
"Chile heat is a complex thing, and the industry doesn't like to base it on just a single fruit that's a record holder. It's too variable," Bosland said.
Bosland's team planted about 125 plants of each "super hot" chile pepper variety — the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the Trinidad Scorpion, the 7-pot, the Chocolate 7-pot and the Bhut Jolokia, the previous winner certified hottest by Guinness World Records in 2007, beating out the Red Savina.
Peppers were randomly selected, dried and ground until researchers could extract the compounds that produce heat, called capsaicinoids. The capsaicinoids were so strong, they penetrated researchers' latex gloves, which had to be replaced repeatedly.
The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion's new notoriety is already making waves in the industry and among those who love their hot, spicy foods.
"As with all the previous record holders, there will be a run on seeds and plants," Jim Duffy, San Diego chile pepper grower, told the Associated Press. "Like Cabbage Patch dolls right before Christmas or Beanie Babies, it's like the hot item."
What physical effect does the pepper, also known as Brain Strain, cause when it's eaten? Many of those brave enough to try -- who use such names as Firehead Thomas or Ted the Firebreathing Idiot -- have posted online videos showing the symptoms: The eyes widen and tear. Sweat starts to drip. The subject winces, grimaces and hops. It is said the tongue can be numb for days.
"Whew, back of my throat, my tongue, it's filling up my tongue," Firehead Thomas says in one video. "It's pretty intense. It really heats your tongue, and it's building. Man, my tongue is on fire! Having trouble talking. Oh, it's bad. ... This is killer."
[For the Record, 4:10 p.m. Feb. 16: An earlier version of this post said New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute was in Albuquerque. It is in Las Cruces.]
Nothing rattles a bunch of politicians like the ouster of one of their own. So a few months after Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce was booted from his Phoenix-area seat, his former colleagues introduced a bill that would tinker with the recall process.
An immigration hard-liner who wrote SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Pearce was defeated in November by Jerry Lewis, a fellow Republican who advocated working alongside the federal government to curb illegal border crossings.
Pearce probably would have crushed Lewis in a primary, which tends to attract fewer and more politically fervent voters. “The ideologues all go to the polls and they elect ideologues -- the Russell Pearces of the world,” Arizona political scientist Bruce Merrill told The Times after the election.
But in a recall, Democrats and independents can weigh in, giving a boost to more moderate candidates. That’s why Pearce -- long considered Arizona's most powerful politician -- equated Lewis’ victory with “going through the backdoor.”
Under the bill, the recall process would shift substantially, the Arizona Republic reported. The legislation, which survived a state Senate committee vote this week, would add party primaries to recall elections.
If that system had been in place during the Pearce recall, only Republicans would have cast ballots in the GOP primary. And because there were only two candidates vying for the seat, no runoff would have been required.
Photo: GOP state Sen. Russell Pearce of Arizona, the force behind the state's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants, speaks at a news conference in November as results in the vote to recall him come in. Credit: Joshua Lott/Reuters
Prosecutors say a North Texas woman's former neighbor kidnapped her, burned down her house, chained her to a bed and tortured her with a deer-skinning device.
Jeffrey Allan Maxwell's trial began Tuesday in Weatherford, about 30 miles west of Fort Worth. Maxwell, 59, of Corsicana faces a possible life sentence if convicted of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault.
Apparently the woman, who lives in Whitt, about 50 miles west of Fort Worth, had refused Maxwell's advances when they were neighbors, KWTX reported.
Prosecutor Kathleen Catania told jurors the woman's DNA was found in Maxwell's car and house after he was arrested, according to the Associated Press. Catania said Maxwell kidnapped the woman from her home at gunpoint March 1 and drove her to his house, about 100 miles away and 75 miles southeast of Fort Worth, where he held her for 12 days.
Maxwell told an investigator that after he took the woman back to his house, he "strung her up" in his garage on a homemade rack used for skinning deer, according to court records cited by the Associated Press.
When Maxwell would leave to do errands, he would store the woman in a box, Catania told the court.
Strangely, the woman initially said family members were trying to kill her, but later told investigators Maxwell hit her with a rolling pin and pulled a gun on her while taking her from her house, according to court testimony reported by the Weatherford Democrat.
“He forced me in the house so he could tie me up and put me in his vehicle,” the woman said after Sgt. Ricky Montgomery of the Parker County Sheriff’s Office pressed her about what happened.
The woman said she found out her house had burned down while watching the news with Maxwell, who told her the house needed to be burned to get rid of his fingerprints, according to the Weatherford Democrat.
Maxwell has also been investigated on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance of his ex-wife, Martha Martinez Maxwell, missing since 1992. Maxwell first went missing in 1987 and was later found beaten with her throat cut near Ardmore, Okla. She survived and Jeffrey Maxwell was charged with aggravated kidnapping, but a grand jury declined to indict him, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Photo: Jeffrey Allan Maxwell enters Judge Trey Loftin's Weatherford, Texas, courtroom on Tuesday. Maxwell, 59, is charged with aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. Credit: Ron T. Ennis / Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
In this casino town partly built on gangster money, it's a sentiment you hear with some frequency: Things were better when the mob ran Vegas.
It conveys a certain wistfulness for the smaller, ostensibly friendlier city where, decades ago, locals shrugged at mobsters' running casinos and reinventing themselves as civic leaders. Sports handicapper Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal hosted a television show. Bootlegger Moe Dalitz helped build a hospital.
The city began formally cashing in on its mafia legacy Tuesday with the opening of the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement -- better known as the Mob Museum.
The publicly funded museum opened in a former federal courthouse where a U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime was held in the 1950s. Its exhibits were shaped by historians and former FBI agents, and include crime scene photos, tommy guns and a brick wall shot up during the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago.
The $42-million project has raised some hackles among fiscal conservatives, who consider it a waste of taxpayer money, the Associated Press reported. But the museum's cheerleaders -- including mob attorney turned mayor Oscar Goodman -- are betting it will draw tourists from the Las Vegas Strip to a slowly gentrifying section of downtown.
Other recent efforts to capitalize on Sin City’s mobster past have had mixed success. The Vegas Mob Tour, a 2½-hour jaunt that includes a stop at Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's Flamingo hotel, has managed to rumble along for several years.
“I try to do it tactfully and with taste, as much as you can with a mob tour,” founder Robert Allen told The Times in 2008. “You can say someone cut off someone's head with a machete, but we prefer to say ‘decapitated.’ ”
The Mob Experience at the Tropicana casino had a tougher time, despite its Strip location and an extensive collection of gangster artifacts. For example, it displayed one of Meyer Lansky's love letters to his wife: "Keep your legs crossed and go to sleep."
The attraction closed last year amid a bevy of problems, including the bankruptcy of its owner, Murder Inc LLC. It's slated to reopen under a different name.
One of the sports memorabilia dealers whom O.J. Simpson was convicted of robbing in a down-market Las Vegas hotel is now fighting his own court battle.
Bruce Fromong, who testified against Simpson in the 2008 armed robbery trial, is accused of shoplifting from the Nellis Air Force Base Exchange near Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Authorities say that in October, Fromong swiped a Madden football PlayStation game from its package and a Case Logic briefcase; and that in November he removed another Madden disc from its package, taped up the box and put it back on the shelf.
In 2007, Fromong and Alfred Beardsley had gone to the Palace Station hotel expecting to sell Simpson collectibles to a wealthy buyer. The meeting was a ruse. Simpson and a ragtag band of men –- two of them armed -– stormed into Room 1203 and scooped up dozens of items. Simpson claimed he was merely trying to get back memorabilia stolen from him.
Fromong made for a particularly interesting witness. He and Simpson had been such close friends, he said, that the football star used to sing "Happy Birthday" to Fromong's mother over the phone. But defense attorneys attacked him as a leech hoping to cash in on Simpson’s infamy. A recording captured Fromong telling someone minutes after the robbery: “I'll have 'InsideEdition' down here for us tomorrow. I told them I want big money.”
Jurors quickly convicted Simpson, who had been acquitted years before in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. A Las Vegas judge sentenced the former football star to between nine and 33 years in prison.
A Texas judge ruled Friday that there was probable cause to believe a former district attorney refused to turn over evidence that contributed to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton, who served 25 years of a life sentence before being exonerated late last year.
Morton, 57, a former grocery store clerk, was ultimately freed thanks to DNA evidence unavailable when his wife was beaten to death in their suburban Austin home in 1986. After he was freed, another man was charged in connection with her killing.
On Friday, Bexar County District Court Judge Sid Harle recommended that the Texas Supreme Court convene a court of inquiry to investigate possible prosecutorialmisconduct in the Morton case by then-Williamson County Dist. Atty. Ken Anderson, now a district court judge.
Morton’s lawyers said the ruling illustrated the perils of prosecutors withholding evidence in criminal cases.
“Tragic consequences can result when prosecutors put aside their ethical obligations in their zeal to win convictions. Yet far too often their misdeeds go unpunished,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, which championed Morton’s case. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he added that Judge Harle’s ruling served as a reminder that "no one is above the law.”
Anderson’s lawyer said his client welcomed the court of inquiry as a chance to clear his name.
“We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate further that the allegations against Judge Anderson are completely without merit,” Austin-based attorney Eric Nichols said in an interview.
Friday's ruling comes after a request by Innocence Project lawyers in December for a court of inquiry, a special Texas legal procedure. The chief justice appoints a judge who conducts the court of inquiry and then appoints a lawyer to represent the state.
In a report filed with their request, Innocence Project lawyers noted that their depositions with key witnesses, including Anderson, showed that he had not turned over evidence that could have helped show that Morton had not beaten his wife, Christine, to death on Aug. 13, 1986.
Anderson, who has apologized for the wrongful conviction, said in his deposition that he could not remember many details about how he handled the Morton case. He contended that he gave Morton’s lawyer everything a judge had ordered him to provide, which he believed was limited to reports by the lead investigator concerning Morton’s initial statements.
But Innocence Project lawyers, through public records requests, obtained evidence they claimed was exculpatory, or could have helped prove their client’s innocence, including: a transcript of the victim’s mother saying the couple’s 3-year-old son told her Michael Morton was not the attacker, a neighbor’s account of seeing someone staking out the Mortons' house before the killing, and records showing the victim’s Visa card was used after her death.
On Friday, Morton's attorneys also revealed new information about a personal check that they had once argued was evidence of Morton's innocence. The $20 check was cashed after Christine Morton's death.
Morton's attorneys had surmised the check suggested that others were involved in her death. But Scheck said he and other lawyers only last week discovered deposit slips showing the check was deposited into a joint account for Christine and Michael Morton.
The discovery removed some of the mystery surrounding the check, but Scheck said Morton's legal team disclosed the information to the court in the interest of transparency.
“We’re doing by example what should have been done in this case” by prosecutors, Scheck said.
But Anderson’s attorney said Scheck and Morton’s other attorneys should have revealed that information long ago.
“It is remarkable to us after all these months and all the things that have been said in filings that they continued to take the position that this was exculpatory,” Nichols said.
Photo: Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson faces a court of inquiry after apologizing for the system's failure in the case of a man who served 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Credit: Laura Skelding/Austin American-Statesman/Associated Press.
The onetime spokesman for Warren Jeffs has filed a $100-million lawsuit against the polygamous sect leader, saying Jeffs asked him to falsify church records and arranged a break-in at his excavating business when he refused.
The lawsuit offers a window into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the reportedly vicious politics of Jeffs, who was recently sentenced to life in prison in Texas for sexually assaulting two young girls whom he said were his spiritual brides.
Former sect spokesman Willie Jessop said in court papers that Jeffs asked him last year to put a letter containing false information in church records, which the sect considers sacred, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The letter was intended to cast doubt on allegations that Jeffs had married two different underage girls in Texas.
Jessop said he knew the information in the letter was false and refused to add it to the records, according to the lawsuit. In response, Jeffs had him excommunicated and demanded he leave the sect's enclave, which straddles the Utah-Arizona border. Jessop wouldn’t budge.
In April, Jessop said in court papers, someone broke into his excavating business and stole computers, hard drives and other files, the Tribune reported. Jessop blamed Jeffs and his associates. Jeffs is well-known for aggressive acts of retaliation, including expelling hundreds of teenagers -- the so-called “Lost Boys” -- reportedly to reduce competition for the sect’s women.
A few months after the alleged break-in, Jeffs was sentenced to prison in Texas. He remains the sect’s leader, however, and recently ordered members to hand over their personal possessions to church officials, who’d determine if they're worthy of getting them back.
"This town sucks, and thank God I was not born here or raised here 'cause I would probably be dead by now."
That was the opening salvo from Sara Wells' roughly 8-minute video, "Why Sara hates Laredo," posted earlier this month on YouTube. The video, which appears to have been shot at home with Walls speaking directly to the camera, did not go unnoticed.
Walls, a Colorado native, explains at the start of the video that she moved to the Texas border city of about 230,000 people a year and a half ago, after her husband was transferred there for work. She then begins to rail against Laredo's Latino drivers, crime and life on the border.
"Half the people driving around have Mexican plates and don't know American laws," the young mother says. In the video, Walls wears a hoodie and dangling earrings -- her brown hair pulled back -- with what appears to be a wall of windows and family photos in the background.
Walls, who is white, says in the video that she's encountered "illegal Mexicans" in her backyard three times since moving to Laredo and that half the people in town don't speak English. She bases the statement, she says, on interactions she's had while driving to, among other places, Wal-Mart.
"The Mexican men here are disgusting," she says, and goes on to complain about being hit on. She also has a few things to say about Mexican moms covering their children's cavities with gold caps and feeding babies Pepsi. She even condemns menudo, a traditional Mexican soup, and the annual Laredo menudo festival.
"I have a list of bad stuff I hate about Laredo, that's how much I hate it," Walls says, glancing down to consult the list. "The whole town is really ghetto, sketchy, scary, unsafe."
"I pray to God that my husband can transfer out of here."
The video ends with Walls casually mentioning that she anticipates negative comments from "haters," but promising to read their comments nonetheless.
"I'm a white girl. How do they say it? They call me guera, gringo," she says. "I was never prejudiced against Mexicans until I moved to this town. So thank you, Laredo, for giving good Mexicans a bad name."
Walls grossly underestimated the potential effect of her video rant.
Overwhelmed by hundreds of negative comments and threats, she removed the video only to later see it posted again by critics, garnering more than 24,000 views and nearly 500 comments as of Friday. Viewers vented their anger on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, prompting a CNN ireport that fanned the flames.
"Get a life. Get a job and stop leeching off our Laredo economy and go back to Colorado," one critic wrote, adding, "By the way Colorado is a Spanish word that means red."
"I have blonde hair, green eyes and im not from here either but i love it here. This chick is stupid!" wrote another.
"Everyone should gather a ton of menudo and dump it on her garden at night," someone suggested.
Earlier this week, Walls' husband came forward to apologize on her behalf, but that failed to contain the controversy.
Michael Walls told Laredo's Pro8 News that his wife struggled with being away from her hometown and adjusting to a very different culture. After she posted the video, he said, he and his kids saw the community turn not just on her, but on them too.
"I'm just sincerely sorry and if there is anything I can do to make it right I mean I would but I didn't do it. So I'm apologizing for my family," Walls said on Monday. He added that the family has moved away from Laredo and has no plans to return.
The outraged included Laredo's mayor, who spoke out against the video the same days Walls' husband apologized.
"The city of Laredo has been offended," Mayor Raul G. Salinas told KGNS TV.
The mayor made a suggestion of what might help, besides apologizing: He invited Sara Walls to come see him at his office "to talk about the city of Laredo."
He said the video was "not fair to the people of Laredo" and claimed "the monster of racism has awoken."
"On YouTube, Facebook you can say whatever you want, but it does not give you the right to be destroying a great city and speaking ill of our culture and our people," he said, "Just because we happen to be bilingual is not a bad thing. It's a good thing."
The mayor went on to praise the local university and schools, tout the upcoming baseball stadium, golf course and the fact that local unemployment is at 7.2%.
"She's totally wrong," he said, "Laredo is numero uno."
The young man who tried to “glitter bomb” Mitt Romney on Tuesday didn’t have a very good night.
First, he missed. Then he was issued a citation for causing a disturbance.
Peter Lucas Smith, 20, tossed blue glitter at the Republican presidential hopeful as Romney was shaking hands with supporters in Colorado, authorities told The Denver Post. Smith's throw fell short of Romney's head, and Secret Service agents quickly removed Smith from the room.
Smith is a student at the University of Colorado Denver, one of the schools on the campus where Romney appeared, and he supports gay rights, CBS4 reported.
Glitter bombs have been wielded by gay rights and Occupy activists a number of times this campaign season. In fact, Romney was dusted with glitter this month in Minnesota.
"I'm happy for the celebration, this is confetti. We just won Florida!" the well-coiffed candidate said at the time. "I've got glitter in my hair; that's not all that's in my hair, I'll tell you that. I glue it on every morning whether I need to or not.”
In Colorado, Romney dodged the glitter without comment. Perhaps that's because his mood was less festive -- he'd lost all three of the day's GOP contests to Rick Santorum.