Nation roundup for May 19


Hagel orders review of sex-abuse prevention

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday ordered the military to recertify all 25,000 people involved in programs designed to prevent and respond to sexual assault, an acknowledgement that assaults have escalated beyond the Pentagon’s control.

He said this step, which also applies to the military’s approximately 19,000 recruiters and must be completed by July 1, is one among many that will be taken to fix the problem of sexual abuse and sexual harassment within every branch of the military.

At a news conference with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hagel said he believes alcohol use is “a very big factor” in many sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, but there are many pieces to the problem.

He and Dempsey spoke one day after all of the military’s leadership were summoned to the White House to discuss the sexual assault problem with President Barack Obama, who has expressed impatience with the Pentagon’s failure to solve it.

At his Pentagon news conference, Hagel said it has become clear to him since taking office in February that holding people accountable for their actions is important, but simply firing people is not a solution. He said he gets a lot of advice on that.

He said some ask him, “Well, why don’t you just fire some people?” He said his answer is, “Well, yeah, we could do that. And, you know, who are you going to fire?”

Hagel signed a one-page memorandum addressed to the uniformed chiefs and civilian heads of each of the military services requiring that the credentials and qualifications of all recruiters, sexual assault response coordinators and sexual assault victim advocates be reviewed to ensure that they meet current standards. They also will be given refresher training on professional ethics and the impact of violations.

“I am concerned that this department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime — and the perception that there is tolerance of it — could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission, and to recruit and retain good people,” Hagel wrote.

A catalyst for congressional outrage has been the disclosure in recent days of at least two cases in which a military member with responsibility for sexual assault prevention programs has himself been accused of sexual misconduct. Cases of sexual assault allegations against military recruiters also have arisen recently.

Dempsey, who has been among the most outspoken Pentagon official on this topic, called sexual assault in the military “a crime that demands accountability and consequences.”

“As the president made clear to us yesterday, we can and must do more to change a culture that has become too complacent,” Dempsey said. “We have a serious problem that we must solve: aggressive sexual behavior that rips at the bond of trust that binds us together.”

Earlier Friday, the Air Force’s top general said that sexual assaults in his branch of the military typically involve alcohol use and can be traced to a lack of respect for women.

“We have a problem with respect for women that leads to many of the situations that result in sexual assault in our Air Force,” Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters in a lengthy interview in his Pentagon offices.

Welsh said combatting the problem, which he characterized as a crisis, is his No. 1 priority as the Air Force chief of staff. He said he reviews every reported case of sexual assault; last year there were 792 in the Air Force.

Welsh addressed criticism about his comment last week, in response to questions at a congressional hearing, that the problem can be explained in part by a “hook-up mentality” in the wider society. Some said his remark implied that the blame rests mainly with victims.

“If I had this to do over again, I would take more time to answer the question and not try to compress it,” he said, adding that his point was that every person who enters the Air Force needs to be instructed in “this idea of respect, inclusion, diversity and value of every individual.”

“Now, I didn’t say it that way in the hearing, and I wish I had because I think it gave, especially victims, the opportunity for someone to interpret what I said as blaming the victims,” he said, adding that as a result, “I am sorry about that because there is nothing that is farther from the truth.”

Obama said after Thursday’s meeting with the military leaders that he is determined to eliminate the “scourge” of sexual assault in the military, while cautioning that it will take a long and sustained effort by all military members.

“There is no silver bullet to solving this problem,” Obama said.

“We will not stop until we’ve seen this scourge, from what is the greatest military in the world, eliminated,” he told reporters.

Senior military officers are speaking about the problem with increasing bluntness and expressions of regret. Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, on Wednesday called it a “crisis” in the ranks, and on Thursday the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, publicly acknowledged his service’s efforts are “failing.”

“They care about this and they are angry about it,” Obama said.

“Not only is it a crime, not only is it shameful and disgraceful, but it also is going to make and has made the military less effective than it can be,” the president said.

Those summoned to the White House by Obama included not just Hagel, Dempsey and the chiefs of each military service but also the civilian heads of each service and senior enlisted advisers.

“I heard directly from all of them that they are ashamed by some of what’s happened,” Obama said.

The president added that because assault victims may be more likely now to come forward with complaints, the number of reported assaults may increase in the short run.

“I then want those trend lines to start going down because that indicates that we’re also starting to fix the problem and we’ve highlighted it, and people who are engaged in despicable behavior, they get fully punished for it,” Obama said.

The problem, which has plagued the military for decades, has been thrust to the fore by recent cases, including that of an Air Force officer who headed a sexual assault prevention office but was himself arrested for sexual battery.

On Thursday, Army officials said the manager of the sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky., had been relieved of his post after his arrest in a domestic dispute with his ex-wife. The program he managed was meant to prevent sexual harassment and assault and encourage equal opportunity.

“It is time we take on the fight against sexual assault and sexual harassment as our primary mission,” Odierno said.

A Pentagon report last week estimated that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results, out of 1.4 million in the services.

That report, and a recent series of arrests and other sexual assault problems across the military, have triggered a rush of initiatives from the Pentagon and proposed legislation on Capitol Hill.

Pa. coffee run leads to hatchet hitchhiker arrest

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — Two cups of coffee ended life on the run for an Internet sensation known as Kai the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker.

An employee at a Starbucks in Philadelphia is credited with recognizing 24-year-old Caleb “Kai” McGillvary, whose fledgling celebrity took a turn toward notoriety when authorities announced this week that he was wanted in the beating death of a New Jersey lawyer three times his age.

The unlikely pair met amid the neon lights of New York City’s Times Square over the weekend and headed back to the squat brick home of 73-year-old Joseph Galfy Jr. on a quiet cul-de-sac in suburban Clark, N.J., authorities say. On Monday, Galfy was found beaten to death in his bedroom, wearing only his socks and underwear. McGillvary was arrested Thursday shortly after leaving the Starbucks and charged with killing Galfy.

McGillvary gained a measure of fame in February after intervening in an attack on a California utility worker. In an interview viewed millions of times online, he described using a hatchet he was carrying to repeatedly hit a man who had struck a worker with his car, fending off a further attack, and thus became known as “Kai the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker.”

Galfy’s funeral was held Friday in a small stone chapel in Warren, N.J. He was buried in East Hanover.

Galfy was an “excellent land use attorney,” said friend Robert Ellenport. He said Galfy loved to travel and was a fan of the New York Giants and the Seton Hall University basketball team. Galfy would fly to warmer climes to watch Seton Hall play its first games of the season and was urging Ellenport and his partner to travel to Bali, one of Galfy’s favorite vacation spots.

Galfy was a respected lawyer who in recent years handled land use and domestic violence cases, according to Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow, whose office is prosecuting McGillvary. The two knew each other through legal circles.

“He was just a nice man, a gentle man, well-regarded in the community,” Romankow said.

In addition to his law practice, Galfy was the attorney for the planning board in Green Brook, N.J., and played drums in a wedding band.

Authorities said McGillvary was arrested Thursday evening after he walked into a Starbucks near a bus station in downtown Philadelphia and ordered two coffees. The woman who served McGillvary recognized him and alerted her manager, who called the police.

McGillvary took off before police arrived, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said, and without his coffee. But an officer went to a nearby bus terminal and found McGillvary, who was arrested there.

“He wasn’t lying low,” Romankow said. “He was out there.”

McGillvary was arraigned Friday and being held without bail on charges in Galfy’s killing, though a court official said he has a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainer for three arrests in Canada in recent years. It’s not clear whether he’d be deported rather than sent to New Jersey to face prosecution in Galfy’s death.

Romankow said that McGillvary, who said in his TV appearance he prefers to be called “home-free” instead of homeless, traded on his newfound prominence to meet fans across the country.

Those fans include Terry Ratliff, 32, of Kingsland, Ga., who said he spoke to McGillvary a few times recently about working on music with him. Ratliff said he made about $70 from a YouTube video featuring McGillvary and sent him $34 on May 8. Ratliff said McGillvary was in New York at the time.

The two haven’t met, but Ratliff started a fund for McGillvary’s legal defense that has only raised $66 so far. It’s not clear whether McGillvary has a lawyer, and the public defender’s office in Philadelphia had no record of him.

“If he is telling the truth, then maybe better legal representation will help get that truth out,” Ratliff said.

McGillvary has made statements before, though, that don’t add up.

He has said he is from Sophia, W.Va., but Mayor Danny Barr said Friday that he and the fire chief know everyone in the town of 1,334, have never heard of him and found nothing about him in town records.

McGillvary also wrote statements on Facebook following Galfy’s death that were “sexual in nature,” Romankow said, and noted that they could have been self-serving.

McGillvary’s last post, dated Tuesday, asks “what would you do?” if you awoke in a stranger’s house and found you’d been drugged and sexually assaulted. One commenter suggests hitting him with a hatchet, and McGillvary’s final comment on the post says, “I like your idea.”

It was a hatchet that helped give McGillvary a brief taste of fame in February when he gave a rambling, profanity-laced interview to a Fresno, Calif., television station about thwarting an unprovoked attack on a Pacific Gas & Electric employee. The interview went viral, with one version viewed more than 3.9 million times on YouTube. McGillvary later traveled to Los Angeles to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Noting that his photo had been all over, Ramsey said it apparently wasn’t difficult to recognize McGillvary.

“Being on YouTube too much,” the police commissioner said, “is not always a good thing.”

Idaho man charged in Uzbekistan terrorism plot

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — He was a Russian-speaking truck driver who came to Idaho nearly four years ago to join hundreds of other Uzbekistan refugees for whom the state has become a sanctuary from violence in their home country.

But federal officials say in an indictment that Fazliddin Kurbanov also was teaching people to build bombs that would target public transportation.

It’s unclear whether those alleged targets were domestic or abroad — or how far Kurbanov would have gone. Prosecutors said Friday only that they believe he no longer is a threat.

Kurbanov, 30, was arrested Thursday during a raid of his small apartment south of Boise’s downtown.

Prosecutors charged him with felonies in Idaho and Utah after an extensive investigation into his activities late last year and this year. They allege those activities included assisting a militant group in his native Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country with a southern border with Afghanistan.

“Given his arrest, we believe any potential threat he posed has been contained,” U.S Attorney Wendy Olson said. She noted the investigation is ongoing but declined to say whether federal agents are pursuing additional arrests.

Kurbanov said little Friday during his first court appearance, where he pleaded not guilty with help from an interpreter and a federally appointed defense attorney. Kurbanov wore a jail jumpsuit and had dark hair and a beard that was much shorter than the one pictured in his Idaho driver’s license.

Kurbanov lists Uzbek as his first language and Russian as his second in court documents. Federal officials said they will enlist the help of an interpreter again Tuesday when he appears for his detention hearing.

Until then, Kurbanov will be held in the Ada County Jail. His trial on the three counts filed in Idaho is scheduled for July 2.

His lawyer, Richard Rubin, declined to comment.

Kurbanov is among about 650 Uzbeks living in Idaho. He was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in August 2009, the same month he moved to Boise, said Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, citing immigration records. Kurbanov was here legally, federal officials said.

Uzbeks began coming to Idaho’s two refugee settlement centers, in Boise and Twin Falls, in 2003, Reeves said. The centers connect refugees with services such as language classes and help finding work.

The flow of Uzbeks to the state escalated around 2005, when a violent clash between protesters and the government left hundreds dead.

Kurbanov told authorities he had a job driving trucks and listed his only assets as used cars and a small amount of cash in checking and savings accounts.

On Friday, the apartment where he is believed to live had a sign on the door saying “Please respect our privacy.” Nobody responded to a knock. Many immigrants from numerous countries live in the complex, a series of two-level buildings across from a public high school.

Olson said that since Kurbanov’s arrest, she has seen Internet comments blaming Muslims living in Idaho — something she called inappropriate.

“These charges shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on that community,” Olson said.

About 90 percent of Uzbeks in their home country are Muslim. Representatives of the Islamic Center of Boise, a meeting place for the region’s Muslim community, didn’t immediately return a phone call Friday.

The Idaho indictment charges Kurbanov with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one count of conspiracy to give material support to terrorists and possession of an unregistered explosive device.

It alleges that between August and May, he knowingly conspired with others to provide resources, including computer software and money, to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which the U.S. has identified as a terrorist organization. The group’s purpose is to overthrow the government of Uzbekistan, said David B. Barlow, U.S. attorney in Utah. The alleged co-conspirators were not named.

The indictment also alleges Kurbanov provided material support to terrorists, knowing it was to be used in preparation for a plot involving the use of a weapon of mass destruction.

On Nov. 15, Kurbanov possessed a series of parts intended to be converted into a bomb, including a hollow hand grenade and aluminum powder, according to the indictment.

A separate federal grand jury in Utah charged Kurbanov with distributing information about bombs. For 10 days in January, Kurbanov taught and demonstrated how to make an “explosive, destructive device and weapon of mass destruction,” the document states.

The Utah indictment, to be handled separately after the Idaho prosecution is resolved, alleges Kurbanov provided recipes for making improvised explosive devices and went on instructional shopping trips in Utah to help illustrate how to create them, Barlow said. Kurbanov also showed Internet videos on the topic, Barlow said.

Although the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan started in the 1990s with the stated aim of overthrowing the Uzbek regime and establishing an Islamic government, its goals have expanded to create a broader Islamic influence in Central Asia.

The movement’s fighters have a presence in Afghanistan’s northern provinces and in Pakistan’s Waziristan province. U.S. and Afghan officials say al-Qaeda has been building ties with the IMU.

Last year, an Uzbek named Ulugbek Kodirov was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison in Alabama for plotting to shoot President Barack Obama. Kodirov pleaded guilty, saying he was acting for the IMU.

Two other Uzbek nationals were arrested in 2012, one in Colorado and another in Pennsylvania, on what the FBI said were related terrorism charges.

According to Idaho’s courts, Kurbanov has no criminal convictions but was ticketed for speeding violations twice last year.

OJ’s ex-lawyer contradicts his testimony on guns

LAS VEGAS (AP) — O.J. Simpson’s former lawyer defended himself point-by-point Friday against allegations he botched the former football star’s armed-robbery trial, and he testified Simpson actually knew his buddies had guns when they went to a hotel room to reclaim some sports memorabilia.

Miami attorney Yale Galanter took the stand at an often combative weeklong hearing on Simpson’s claim that he was so badly represented by his lawyer that his conviction should be thrown out.

Galanter denied giving Simpson the go-ahead to retrieve the photos and footballs he believed had been stolen from him. He denied keeping Simpson in the dark about plea bargain offers that carried only a few years in prison. He said his client agreed all along with the decision not to put him on the stand.

And he disputed Simpson’s testimony that he didn’t know anyone in the hotel room had taken along guns.

“When you look at the entire trial, I don’t think I could have fought harder, done more,” Galanter said of his handling of the case. “I put every ounce of blood, sweat and soul into it.”

At another point, he said: “Simpson brought a lot of baggage into the courtroom. It’s not like the 12 jurors didn’t know he was accused of murder and acquitted.”

Simpson, 65, was found guilty in 2008 of kidnapping and armed robbery over the hotel room episode and was sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison. The conviction came 13 years after the sensational Trial of the Century, where he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and a friend of hers.

District Judge Linda Marie Bell has not indicated when she will rule on the request for a new trial on the robbery charges.

Freed from the usual attorney-client confidentiality rules, Galanter testified that Simpson confided to him that he had asked two men to bring guns to the hotel room in 2007, and “he knew he screwed up.”

On the stand, Galanter brought up the guns only after he paused and was reminded that Simpson had waived attorney-client privilege. “I’m very uncomfortable doing this,” he said.

After the lawyer delivered the blow, Simpson didn’t move, looking straight ahead at his former counsel and confidant.

Testifying about events leading up to the incident, Galanter said he was surprised when Simpson told him over dinner in Las Vegas that he and several other men were planning a “sting” the next morning to take back the mementos.

Galanter said he advised Simpson not to take matters into his own hands: “I said, ‘O.J., you’ve got to call the police.’”

According to Simpson, Galanter advised him that he was within his rights to retrieve the items; told him not to testify at the trial; and failed to tell him prosecutors had offered plea bargains.

Simpson lawyer Tom Pitaro questioned Galanter closely about financial aspects of the case. During one objection, the judge asked Pitaro where he was going with his questions.

“What Mr. Galanter has done is, this man has received over a half-million dollars and has put his interest, his financial interest, above the interest of his client,” Pitaro said.

Galanter insisted he told Simpson at least three times that prosecutors discussed plea bargains. He said Simpson rejected them.

Simpson said, “No deal. No way” to an offer from the district attorney of five to seven years in prison, Galanter said. Later, during the trial, Simpson turned down a better offer, Galanter said.

“I went out in the hall and said to O.J, ‘There is an offer of two to five.’ He said, ‘See if they will take a year,’” Galanter testified. “I discussed a year with them, and they said no and the trial went on.”

Galanter was also grilled about trial decisions such as not objecting to a recording of a discussion that mentioned Simpson’s murder trial. Galanter noted that the judge had instructed the jury it couldn’t consider the murder case.

The attorney said he also believed that letting the jury hear the audio would help Simpson.

“We needed a way to get O.J.’s story in without his taking the witness stand,” he said. “It was a way to get O.J. to testify without cross-examination.”

If Simpson succeeds in getting his conviction thrown out, prosecutors will have to decide whether to retry him or offer a plea bargain. If he loses, he will be sent back to prison and will probably appeal. He will be 70 before he is eligible for parole.

 

Rules for posting comments