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  • 06/13/15--16:56: Cops Play, Joke During Raid

  • Surveillance video received by nonprofit news group Voice of OC has landed 10 Santa Ana police officers at the center of an internal investigation.

    The officers are seen in the edited video during a police raid at Sky High medical marijuana dispensary last month. The officers, some in plainclothes, can be seen dismantling surveillance video equipment, joking around, throwing darts and allegedly eating marijuana-laced edible products from the shop.

    "These officers came in just looking like they were out of a movie," said Marla James, who volunteered at the dispensary.

    But for James, who is seen in the video leaving the dispensary in her wheelchair, escorted by an officer, it wasn't what she calls aggressive behavior that bothered her most.

    One of the officers can be heard in the video allegedly making fun of James, who has only one leg, and laughing about it.

    "There's no doubt in my mind -- I was the only one there with one leg," she said.

    Matthew Pappas is the attorney representing the dispensary. He plans on filing a lawsuit against the police department, alleging the behavior is not only excessive, but criminal.

    He believes one of the officers seen in the video is eating a cannabis product.

    "Is it criminal -- if they're eating marijuana edibles, it's probably criminal," he said. "I think those officers should be drug tested."

    The dispensary has since been shuttered.

    Bruce Margolin, director of the National Organization For The Reform of Marijuana Laws' LA chapter, criticized the raid.

    "Totally, ridiculously horrible. (It's) unbelievable. The laws are ambiguous, everybody knows that. They take advantage of these poor people," Margolin said.

    Santa Ana police said all the officers will be interviewed as part of its internal investigation.

    Department officials were hesitant to comment Thursday on what they believe is a heavily edited version of the entire surveillance tape.

    "I’d be hesitant to use the work excessive right now because we have such a small glimpse of actually what happened," said Commander Chris Revere. "What I would say is we're concerned about what we saw on the video."

    Click here to view the video at Voice of OC

    Robert Kovacik contributed to this report


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    Five people were injured Saturday during an accidental shooting at a wedding reception at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City authorities said.

    A guest at the wedding was playing with a gun at about 7:20 p.m. when it accidentally fired, police sources told NBC 4 New York, stressing that their investigation is in a preliminary stage.

    The bullet grazed a woman's head, the source said. Others were injured by broken glass.

    The man with the weapon, whose name was not disclosed, is in police custody, a source said.

    Two people were taken to Bellevue Hospital Center with minor injuries, FDNY officials said. Two others sustained minor injuries and were taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital.

    A fifth person refused medical attention at the scene, official said.

    FDNY officials could not say whether any person suffered a gunshot wound.

    The hotel issued a statement on the incident saying "as the safety and security of our guests and team members are the hotel's top priorities, the Waldorf Astoria New York is cooperating fully with local authorities on this matter."


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  • 06/13/15--23:43: 2 Injured at Great America

  • Two people were injured at California's Great America amusement park in Santa Clara on Friday night.

    Great America officials said Saturday a park associate was struck by a train returning to the station of the Flight Deck roller coaster around 8:10 p.m. The park employee was transported to a hospital with "traumatic" injuries, authorities said.

    A guest who was on the coaster reported a hand injury and was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and treatment, park officials said.

    "Safety is at the heart of everything we do and remains our highest priority," a statement from park officials said. "We are working closely with local and state authorities to investigate this matter."

    The Flight Deck ride will remain closed until the investigation is complete.

    NBC's chopper flew over the park's Flight Deck ride, a steel inverted roller coaster, where emergency crews were responding to the scene Friday night.

    “It was a maintenance guy,” one young witness told NBC Bay Area. “He got hit by the train and then he went flying.” The witness said the man could be seen bleeding from the head and appeared to have momentarily stopped breathing after he was thrown.

    Park officials said there is no reason to believe the ride malfunctioned, but they are still gathering more information.

    “We were on our way to go on Flight Deck and all of a sudden we hear, ‘Oh, the ride’s closed,’” parkgoer Julissa Perez said. “This girl with her boyfriend comes up and is like, ‘This old man just fell off the ride.’ And were like ‘What?’”

    Flight Deck, built by legendary Swiss firm Bollinger & Mabillard, is considered to be "of historic significance" by the American Coaster Enthusiasts fan group.

    The ride was known as Top Gun when it first opened in 1993. In 1998, a Hayward man who police said was trying to retrieve his hat from under the tracks was struck and killed by the coaster.

    A year later, a 12-year-old Sunnyvale boy who fell from the Drop Zone "free-fall" tower became the fourth person to die at the park since it opened in 1976.



    Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

    Two people were injured at California's Great America, Friday, June 12, 2015.Two people were injured at California's Great America, Friday, June 12, 2015.

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    Bolton Road in Vernon is shut down tonight while police investigate a serious motorcycle crash.

    Police say the accident occurred in the 400-block of Bolton Road. Lifestar confirms they were called in for patient transported but then cancelled.

    Bolton Road is currently closed between Hatch Hill Road and Wildwood Road while the accident reconstruction team investigates. Police expect the road to be closed for several hours.

    No other information was immediately available. Check back for updates.
     



    Photo Credit: Vernon Police

    Vernon PoliceVernon Police

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  • 06/13/15--20:08: Dallas Attack Suspect's Past

  • The suspect in the attack on the Dallas Police headquarters was mentally ill and "heard voices," his mother said.

    James Boulware, suspected of attacking the headquarters of the Dallas Police Department Saturday, was arrested in 2013 for choking his mother "to the point of unconsciousness," police told NBC 5.

    "We apologize to the police for his behavior," Jeannine Hammond said of her son, James Boulware, in a statement after Saturday's attack.

    "We loved him and will remember him as the man he was before all of this took place. We are so grateful that no other families are having to bury anyone because of his actions."

    Hammond called police in Paris, Texas, in April 2013 to report that Boulware choked her and strangled his uncle, according to court records. Boulware was jailed but the charges were later dropped, his father said.

    Dallas Police Chief David Brown said police were aware of ongoing issues related to a custody dispute involving Boulware's son.

    "There were 3 family violence cases against this suspect and there apparently was some kind of custody issue, as a result of these family violence issues," Brown said Saturday morning. "We had no other indication of this suspect threatening police officers or threatening police facilities."

    Brown also mentioned that Boulware had made threats against judges and on social media, and responded during the press conference Saturday morning that  they "have taken steps to ensuring safety of judges who suspect threatened before."

    "We've been dealing with this for a long time," said Boulware's mother. "I'm glad nobody else was hurt."

    At the time of Boulware's arrest in 2013, police issued a public alert that he was armed with guns, a large amount of ammunition, and also had body armor, and might go on a shooting spree.

    "He was going to just kill all the adult members of the family and then that’s when he made the comment he may shoot up some churches and schools," said Paris police chief Bob Hundley, according to a 2013 news report on NBC station KTEN.

    A deputy spotted him in Paris and Boulware was arrested without incident.

    According to an arrest report, the incident began when Boulware attacked two family members and went on a rant.

    His mother "had gone into the kitchen to make her something to eat when the suspect began making comments about North and South Korea, and began talking rudely about religion, Jews and Christians," a police affidavit said. "The suspect suddenly grabbed (his mother’s) throat with both of his hands and began squeezing."

    "He then punched his uncle and choked him “to the point of unconsciousness,” the affidavit said.

    A neighbor told KTEN that Boulware had been a mechanic and worked out of a "mobile van."

    Boulware's father Jim said his son was angry not getting custody of his son.

    "He looked at the police as taking his son," the elder Boulware said.

    Jim Boulware said his son mowed his lawn on Friday and left about 9:30 p.m., saying he was heading to West Texas to visit a friend.

    "And I told him, my last words were, 'Have a nice trip,'" Jim Boulware said.

    Boulware also was arrested for possession of marijuana in 2013, according to public records.

    NBC 5's Scott Gordon contributed to this report.



    Photo Credit: Dallas Police via Twitter/Dallas County Jail
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.

    Police say the man involved in the Dallas police headquarters attack and standoff in Hutchins identified himself to police negotiators as James Boulware.Police say the man involved in the Dallas police headquarters attack and standoff in Hutchins identified himself to police negotiators as James Boulware.

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     Hartford Police are investigating a possible early Sunday morning shooting.

    Police were called to Albany Ave. after reports of gunfire just before  6 a.m.

    There they found a male victim with a single wound to his leg. His injuries are non life threatening.

    We will bring you more details as they become available.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    An impaired driver is in the hospital after striking 15 cars in West Haven Saturday afternoon and several occupants of the cars hit were also injured, police said.

    The driver of a Chevy pickup truck hit a parked car with people inside behind American Legion Hall in the parking lot off Main Street at about 2:50 p.m., police said. Continuing east on Main Street, the driver hit several more vehicles and then struck more on Washington Avenue before coming to a stop by Washington Manor, police said.

    West Haven police stopped the driver and there was no further incident in the area, police said. The driver showed signs of being under the influence or suffering a medical condition, so the person was taken to a hospital to be treated.

    Occupants of cars hit on Main Street near Washington Avenue were treated for minor injuries.

    The names of the driver and people injured have not been released at this time.

    Police continue to investigate the string of crashes and said that charges may be filed if warranted.


    West Haven police are investigating a home invasion on Campbell Avenue.West Haven police are investigating a home invasion on Campbell Avenue.

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    Back in February, East Haven increased fines for parking violations near Cosey Beach and now that the summer season nears officials are reminding beach-goers that they will face a bigger fine if they park in the wrong spot by the beach.

    The Town Council approved an ordinance on Feb. 3 increasing the fine for parking in designated no-parking zones from $10 to $100 in effort to reduce "parking woes" at the beach this summer after a slew of complaints last year, according to a release from the mayor's office.

    The town also moved no-parking signs to the south side of Cosey Beach Avenue.

    The decision marks the first revision to the parking fine structure since 1985, officials said.

    "In response to concerns raised by residents, I directed our Police Commission to review and amend the regulations regarding beach parking," East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo Jr. previously said in a statement. "In addition to strategically relocating no-parking signs, the Commission and Town Council have now increased the fine for parking in designated no-parking zones from $10 dollars to $100 dollars."

    Already people in the area have noticed a difference.

    “A lot better, a lot better,” says Susan Gonnelly.

    Out of town beachgoers are forced to park on streets because nearby parking lots are reserved for residents with beach permits.

    That meant in previous summers neighbors say cars were blocking driveways and it even made it difficult for emergency responders to get through.

    “It was pretty tough because there were cars on both sides of the street and if two cars were coming down you just had to wait,” says Gonnelly.

    Saturday late afternoon was a slow time at the beach and there no cars parked illegally.

    A park worker says police have been patrolling and have had to previously issue tickets.

    It remains to be seen once the beach season gets busier if people still follow the rules with the threat of the increased fine.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    Back in February, East Haven increased fines for parking violations near Cosey Beach and now that the summer season nears officials are reminding beach-goers that they will face a bigger fine if they park in the wrong spot by the beach.Back in February, East Haven increased fines for parking violations near Cosey Beach and now that the summer season nears officials are reminding beach-goers that they will face a bigger fine if they park in the wrong spot by the beach.

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    Two men arrested in the accidental wounding of a woman at a wedding at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel won't be charged until an investigation is complete because the man who discharged the gun has a permit to carry it, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said Sunday.

    "Prosecution of this case is deferred while the investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding the discharge of the firearm and its removal from the scene," a spokesman for the DA's office said.

    Vladimir Gotlibovsky, 42, and Felix Gotlibovsky, 51, face charges including reckless endangerment and assault.

    Vladimir Gotlibovsky, a guest at the wedding, was playing with a gun at about 7:20 p.m. Saturday when it accidentally fired, police said. He does have a permit to carry the weapon, the DA spokesman said.

    The bullet grazed a woman's head. Others were injured by broken glass.

    Police say Vladimir Gotlibovsky tampered with physical evidence after his gun discharged inside the famed hotel. They didn't elaborate.

    Felix Gotlibovsky also faces charges including criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.

    Two people were taken to Bellevue Hospital Center with minor injuries, FDNY officials said. Two others sustained minor injuries and were taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital.

    The hotel issued a statement on the incident saying "as the safety and security of our guests and team members are the hotel's top priorities, the Waldorf Astoria New York is cooperating fully with local authorities on this matter."

    No one answered a phone listed for Vladimir Gotlibovsky. A woman hung up when contacted at a number for Felix Gotlibovsky. It wasn't immediately known how the two were related.


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    Two people were taken to the hospital after a head-on crash in Hamden early Sunday morning.

    State police say the accident occurred in the area of Route 15 south between the Hero’s Tunnel and Exit 60 around 3:38 a.m. Sunday. According to police, a BMW operated by Wilian Chavez-sanchez, 22, of Bridgeport was traveling north in the southbound lanes of the highway when it struck a Jaguar operated by Laura Vanwormer, 59, of Meriden head-on.

    Vanwormer was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital with serious injuries. Chavez-sanchez was also transported to the hospital.

    Police are still investigating the accident. Anyone with information should contact Trooper Biggs of Troop I at 203 393 4200.
     



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    A beloved Willimantic church has reopened its doors after a devastating fire.

    Flames torched the inside of Saint Mary Roman Catholic Church in 2013 and it has taken two-years to rebuild.

    A re-dedication mass is scheduled for Saturday, June 20th at 4:30pm. So Sunday was a chance to simply to celebrate the effort to save and rebuild this church.

    “Amazing, it’s just a beautifully finished product,” says Linda Harbec, a church member.

    It’s hard to believe what happened here about two-years ago. Even the column where the fire started has been rebuilt.

    “I was here for the fire. I was behind watching it burn and I watched the firemen punch out the stained glass window and my heart sank,” says Marge Bachand, a church member.

    Heroic efforts by firefighters on May 16th, 2013 saved the outside and the foundation of the 110-year old building. But the inside was devastated and would undergo two –years of repairs.

    “I received pictures along the way of the progress of the church and when I saw it it kind of blew me away,” says Albert Harbec, a church member.

    The original tabernacle and sanctuary lamp were miraculously saved from the ashes. Among the new additions, the repainted half-dome includes stars on a blue background.

    “The stars that are in that half-dome are the actual constellations for the night for January, 1st 1905, the day the church opened,” says Mark Lafontaine, the church’s art director.

    There was a never a doubt the church would be rebuilt. Many were just surprised how well it turned out and hope that it lasts at least another century.

    “It just took a lot of thought and special, very special restoration that’s fabulous,” says Bachand.

    The church says the cause of the fire was never determined. The cost of repairs and decorating were covered by insurance and donations.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

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    A San Jose couple found a way to be patriotic and save water at the same time.

    Dan and Claudia Decker are like a lot of homeowners dealing with the drought. They had to let their lawn go brown to conserve water but they didn't like how it looked. So they painted an American flag on it in honor of Flag Day Sunday, June 14.

    But they are also looking into what to do in the future.

    “I hope everybody enjoys it and maybe the next holiday coming up we'll think about another thing to paint … Maybe a shamrock or two on St. Paddy’s Day, but the drought will be over by then,” said Dan Decker.

    The Deckers say the flag has been getting a lot of attention.

    Not only are neighbors stopping by but so are strangers who are asking for help painting a lawn flag of their own.
     



    Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

    Dan and Claudia Decker.Dan and Claudia Decker.

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    Suffield police are investigating a fatal motorcycle crash that occurred Sunday night.

    Police say the crash occurred around 7 p.m. on Route 159 just north of Boston Neck Road. The operator was killed as a result of the crash. Police have not released his name, but sources tell NBC Connecticut that it was a male in his 40’s from Enfield.

    Police believe there was only one vehicle involved and they are investigating what caused the accident. Route 159 is closed between Boston Neck Road and Bridge Street while police and fire officials investigate the crash. It is unclear when the road will reopen.

    Check back for updates.
     

     


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    Authorities say a swarm of mayflies was so dense it caused motorcycle crashes and prompted the closing of a Pennsylvania bridge.

    The LNP newspaper reports that mayflies swarmed around the lights on the bridge and then fell to the ground, forming piles several inches deep on the road.

    Police in West Hempfield Township in Lancaster County said the Route 462 bridge between Columbia and Wrightsville was shut down about 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

    Chief Chad Livelsberger of the Wrightsville Fire Company says three motorcycle crashes occurred because of the flies. Details on any injuries were not immediately available.

    Officer Brad Rohrbaugh says the bridge was reopened sometime before 6 a.m. Sunday.


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    Passengers that were on a flight from Chicago to London posted their grievances on social media after the plane made an unexpected stop, forcing passengers to spend 20 hours in a Canadian military barracks. 

    Flight 958 was on its way from O’Hare International Airport to London Heathrow Airport by the scheduled time of 5:26 p.m. before the pilot announced they would soon be making an emergency landing due to what the company says was a “maintenance issue.”

    Lois Harper, who was on her way home to Stamford, England at the time, told NBC Chicago she and 176 others then sat on the plane for hours before the crew told them they were being diverted to Goose Bay, Canada to spend the night in military barracks. FlightAware.com shows the flight landed in the chilly Canadian city at 11:30 p.m. local time. 

    Many passengers claim they were dropped off at the barracks to manage on their own without heat, towels, blankets, luggage or most importantly – answers.

    While the passengers made do for 20 hours in the military camp site, one of the biggest frustrations accounted for in the social media frenzy was that the 11 crew members on board were nowhere to be found – because they were resting comfortably in nearby hotel accommodations.

    "The crew must rest in order to continue the flight. You can rest on board the aircraft knowing that they are in charge," United responded to one angry passenger on Twitter.

    Mary Ryan, a spokesperson for the airline said in statement that there was simply not enough hotel space available in Goose Bay, “so we accommodated our customers at a local military base and provided meals.”

    “We apologize to our customers for the disruption, and we recognize this was a considerable inconvenience, so we will be refunding their tickets to London and providing additional compensation,” Ryan added.

    Once a new plane arrived, the group was eventually flown to Newark, New Jersey about 10 p.m. Saturday where they then took off for their final destination of London on Sunday afternoon.

    Despite the prolonged case of jetlag and travel-related annoyance the passengers aboard may have had to recover from (and we all can sympathize with), regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration point to a strong defense for the airline.

    The latest rules and regulations mandating pilot and crew fatigue released by the FAA in 2011 show an airline carrier must provide an environment that permits “sufficient” sleep and recovery periods for all crewmembers on a flight in cases like these – and quite frankly, sleeping amongst hundreds of other passengers does not seem to qualify.

    FAA’s regulations demand all crewmembers must report for duty after a minimum of 10 hours of measured “rest” and at least 8 hours of logged and solid sleep in order to be fit to fly.

    “We made a promise to the traveling public that we would do everything possible to make sure pilots are rested when they get in the cockpit,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said of the rulings in a release on the FAA’s website. “This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue.”



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

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    Jeb Bush will formally enter the 2016 race Monday, six months after the former Florida governor got the campaign buzz started by saying he was considering a bid.

    The brother of one president and son of another, Bush faces a historically crowded field of more than a dozen possible Republican opponents for the nomination. 

    On Sunday, the 62-year-old previewed his campaign announcement with several web videos highlighting who he is and his stance on several issues.

    "My core beliefs start with the premise that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line, not the back," Bush said in one of the videos.

    Bush will address a crowd of supporters Monday afternoon at Miami Dade College. According to the MDC website, the school both enrolls and graduates more minorities than any other college or university in the United States, including the most Hispanics. The venue was likely chosen to highlight Bush's passion for education policy as well as to seek the support of Latino voters.

    South Floridians looked forward to the long-awaited moment.

    "He's the one that will pull in more groups," Randy Espinaga says. "Not just in Florida or Miami, but nationwide."

    Bush supporter David Carvallo agreed.

    "You know the primary is a long process," Carvallo said. "But I think on a national stage the only one that can go up against the Hillary Clinton machine is going to be Jeb and company."

    Bush just returned from a week-long trip to Europe where he focused on foreign policy. In recent months, he also traveled across the United States talking about jobs and education. However, some in Miami say they are still undecided.

    "This is a big country, there are a lot of capable people out there," undecided voter Ruth Jacobs said. "So we just need more of them to step up."

    Bush will make his announcement at 3 p.m. June 15th at Miami Dade College's Kendall campus.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    NASHUA, NH - APRIL 17: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush greets people after speaking at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit April 17, 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Summit  brought together local and national Republicans and was attended by all the Republicans candidates as well as those eyeing a run for the nomination. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)NASHUA, NH - APRIL 17: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush greets people after speaking at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit April 17, 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Summit brought together local and national Republicans and was attended by all the Republicans candidates as well as those eyeing a run for the nomination. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

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    Bridgeport police are asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect in a Monday evening shooting.

    Police say the suspect shot at two victims at the Greene Homes housing complex on June 8 around 6:51 p.m. Surveillance video captured the suspect pull out a gun and shoot at a vehicle in the parking lot.

    Police say the two victims were able to escape unharmed, but two rounds struck a baby car seat.

    Anyone with information should contact Det. A.J. Calvao at 203 581 5240.
     



    Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department

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    The embattled leader of the NAACP in Spokane is stepping down from her post, she said Monday, days after her parents' claims that she has falsely portrayed herself as black for years sparked calls for her resignation and a nationwide dialogue about racial identity.

    "It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the Presidency and pass the baton to my Vice President, Naima Quarles-Burnley," Rachel Dolezal said in a statement on the chapter's Facebook page Monday.

    Dolezal didn't address the questions about her own race in her statement announcing her resignation, instead reiterating her commitment to the NAACP's cause.

    "Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It's about justice," she said. "This is not me quitting; this is a continuum."

    Dolezal's parents had told the "Today" show Monday that they think she pretended to be black as a way to hurt them, and that they have been estranged from her for years.

    "I think Rachel has tried to damage her biological family and those kind of claims, as false as they were, seem to serve her purposes in her mind," her mother Ruthanne Dolezal told the "Today" show.

    Rachel Dolezal had earlier canceled a chapter meeting Monday where she was expected to speak about the furor sparked over her racial identity. But other members of the organization said they still planned to gather Monday evening.

    A demonstration had been planned by some members Monday night calling for Dolezal to step down.

    Dolezal was elected president of the local NAACP chapter about six months ago.

    The NAACP issued a statement Friday supporting Dolezal, who has been a longtime figure in Spokane's human-rights community and teaches African studies to college students.

    Ruthanne Dolezal, Rachel Dolezal's mother, said the family's ancestry is Czech, Swedish and German, with a trace of Native American heritage. She produced a copy of her daughter's Montana birth certificate listing herself and Larry Dolezal as Rachel's parents.

    The city of Spokane is investigating whether Dolezal lied about her ethnicity when she applied to be on the police board. Police on Friday said they were suspending investigations into racial-harassment complaints filed by Dolezal, including one from earlier this year in which she said she received hate mail at her office.



    Photo Credit: KHQ
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.

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    Navigating the complexities of U.S. immigration law can be a bewildering experience, especially for those without legal training. With the threat of deportation often looming, the trust an undocumented immigrant places in his or her attorney is tantamount to the relationship between doctor and sick patient.

    But what recourse do immigrants have when they're denied the chance to defend themselves in court because of a mishandled case? The Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that raised that question, finding that an appeals court has jurisdiction to intervene on deportation.

    “An attorney can actually cover up his malpractice, and the client doesn’t have any relief,” attorney Raed Gonzalez, who represented Noel Reyes Mata in his case before the high court, said prior to the decision.

    Gonzalez, a partner in Houston immigration law firm Gonzalez Olivieri LLC, said immigrants seeking to reopen their deportation proceedings can often be unaware of their lawyers' legal missteps for months or even years.

    "There are a lot of joker attorneys out there,” he said.
    Calls to the Justice Department for comment on the case weren't returned.
    The backstory: In 2010, Mata, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, pleaded guilty to charges of assaulting his girlfriend, and deportation proceedings were swiftly begun.

    He petitioned to halt them through the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), an appeals court within the Justice Department. But his lawyers at the time blundered by not filing the proper appeals documents to the court, Gonzalez said, and Mata's appeal was thrown out.

    After he had hired new lawyers, Mata asked that his case be reopened, saying he hadn't been made aware of his former attorney’s clerical error until after the 90-day filing deadline had passed.
    The BIA dismissed his appeal, and Mata then asked a federal appeals court to contest the BIA's judgment, saying his lawyer’s failure to file necessary paperwork had denied him of his legal rights. The Fifth Circuit’s response: We can't overturn a BIA ruling.

    But Mata's lawyers asked the Supreme Court take the case on, and the justices agreed. They issued their 8-1 decision Monday, holding that a federal appeals court has jurisdiction in such a case and can delay a deadline for an immigrant seeking to reopen a deportation case based on ineffective counsel.
    Legal experts said before the decision that a Supreme Court ruling in Mata's favor could bolster due process rights for vulnerable immigrants nationally.

    “If a non-citizen establishes that his lawyer messed up and the results could have been different, the case should be reopened,” New York-based immigration attorney Kerry Bretz of Bretz and Coven LLP said before the ruling said in an email.

    “The BIA has a habit of applying its opinion (often not favorable to non-citizens) in all the circuit courts that have not addressed a particular issue. That is the case here," Bretz added. "Sadly, the Fifth Circuit failed to do the right thing."

    Sheridan Green, an associate with Gonzalez Olivieri, the firm representing Mata, expressed optimism about what the ruling would mean for other immigrants.

    “Sometimes these attorneys did really awful things. Sometimes it’s just negligence, but sometimes it’s just straight up fraud. And the fifth circuit hasn’t been of any help to us. So what this is going to do is open up judicial review for foreign nationals.”
     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    What legal recourse do undocumented immigrants have when their lawyers fail them? The Supreme Court is set to decide.What legal recourse do undocumented immigrants have when their lawyers fail them? The Supreme Court is set to decide.

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    If you’re a T-Mobile customer, you could be getting some money back, but you have just over two weeks left to file a claim to get your share of a $90 million settlement.

    T-Mobile customers who were affected by cramming scams have until June 30 to apply for a refund, but you’ll have to register first to see if you are eligible, so don’t wait until the last minute.

    “Cramming victims face a June 30 deadline to seek money back from T-Mobile for unlawful charges forced on them without consent or even knowledge. A December federal settlement with T-Mobile for cramming will yield refunds – but only if consumers make claims by June 30,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement. “Unauthorized and unscrupulous third-party charges—hidden in bills through vague and deceptive language—have robbed consumers and they deserve their money back.”

    The practice of “cramming” is one in which phone companies and wireless carriers allow non-phone company charges to be added onto monthly bills without the consumer’s authorization and, sometimes without the consumer getting anything in return for the charges.

    The T-Mobile settlement follows a similar agreement reached with AT&T in October, in which AT&T agreed to a $105 million settlement.

    The FCC and CFPB recently reached a settlement of $158 million with Sprint and Verizon.

    If you do not know if you are eligible for a refund, you can request a free account summary showing all PSMS charges and refunds that were placed on your account from July 2010 to the present. You can get your account summary online by visiting http://www.t-mobilerefund.com/billing, or call 1-855-382-6403 to have an account summary request form mailed to you.

    If you apply for and receive a refund, T-Mobile will credit your account if you are a current T-Mobile customer or will issue you a check if you are a former T-Mobile customer.
     



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

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