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Archive for March, 2022

U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Found Guilty of Lying to Federal Investigators

Jeff Fortenberry

By Steve Neavling

U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was convicted by a federal jury Thursday of concealing information and making false statements to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign from a Nigerian billionaire. 

The 61-year-old Nebraska Republican has served in Congress since 2005. 

He will be sentenced on June 28. Each of the three felony charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. 

“After learning of illegal contributions to his campaign, the congressman repeatedly chose to conceal the violations of federal law to protect his job, his reputation and his close associates,” U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement. “The lies in this case threatened the integrity of the American electoral system and were designed to prevent investigators from learning the true source of campaign funds.”

Prosecutors said Fortenberry lied to investigators on two occasions when asked about the illegal donation during a Los Angeles fundraiser in 2016. It’s a crime to accept donations from foreign nationals for a federal campaign. He also failed to file an amended repot with the Federal Election Commission. 

“Today’s conviction highlights the FBI’s commitment to holding elected officials accountable,” Kristi Johnson, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said. “The verdict emphasizes the importance of being truthful to law enforcement and demonstrates the government’s dedication to keeping the nation’s interests free from foreign influence through illegal campaign contributions.”

Former TSA Administrator ‘Kip’ Hawley Dies at Age 68

Former TSA Administrator Edmund S. “Kip” Hawley

By Steve Neavling

Edmund S. “Kip” Hawley, who served as TSA administrator from July 2005 to January 2009, died Monday. 

He was 68.

Details of his death were not immediately available. 

“It is with a heavy heart that I share the loss of former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske tweeted. “His legacy was a model for compassionate public service, innovation, and customer service which remains a cornerstone @TSA today. The #TSAWorkforce stands with Kip’s family and loved ones.”

In a joint statement, U.S. Reps. Bennie G. Thompson, D-MS, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and John Katko, R-NY, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said Hawley “played an integral role” in protecting Americans following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Our homeland security community is saddened to lose an important contributor to the early days of TSA and the Department of Homeland Security,” they said. “I commend former Administrator Hawley for his service and dedication to securing our Nation’s aviation system. I share his focus on advocating for the dedicated professionals at TSA. As he said in a statement for the record at our recent committee hearing on the State of TSA Twenty Years After 9/11, ‘intelligence and technology are critical to effective security, but people were – and still are – TSA’s strongest asset.’”

Born in Waltham, Mass., Hawley received a political science degree from Brown University in 1976 and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1980. 

He left behind a wife and two children. 

Leonard Peltier Asks Biden for Clemency, Insisting He Didn’t Kill 2 FBI Agents in 1975

By Steve Neavling

Leonard Peltier, a Lakota tribe member who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1975, is asking President Biden to grant him clemency, insisting he is innocent. 

Peltier, 77, has maintained he had nothing to do with the murder of the two agents on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. 

An all-white jury convicted him, and he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. 

Peltier said he wants a new trial but he doesn’t want a presidential pardon because he’s innocent, NBC News reports.

“If I get into court, if the judge is fair, how are they going to answer all of that?” he said of evidence that was withheld from the 1977 trial. “I want to get a trial.”

Protesters also recently called for his release before he dies in prison.

In his first interview since 2016, he told NBC News that time is running out. 

“They’re going to try and make me die here,” Peltier said by phone Wednesday from his federal prison in Central Florida, his first media interview since 2016. “I have a last few years, and I got to fight.”

Peltier’s health is deteriorating, and he was infected with COVID-19 in late January.

Border Patrol Agents Rescue Abandoned 4-Year-Old Girl

Border Patrol agents rescue a 4-year-old girl found alone. Photo: Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling

Border Patrol agents rescued a 4-year-old girl found alone on a riverbank at the Texas border. 

The girl was left alone after a smuggler brought her across the Rio Grande, CBP said. 

She was found on the morning of March 20 by Border Patrol agents who had spotted a large number of migrants in the area. 

As of Tuesday, the agency did not know the girl’s identity or where her she from. 

“The child is now safe thanks to our agents,” the U.S. Border Patrol Del Rio Sector said in a Facebook post. 

Border Patrol Sued After Agents Fatally Shot Unarmed U.S. Citizen

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling

A federal lawsuit alleges Border Patrol agents fatally shot an unarmed U.S. citizen who posed no danger. 

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the mother and son of Silvestre Estrada Vargas, 26, who was shot during a traffic stop on May 14, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

The suit also alleges excessive force, assault and battery and negligence. 

CBP has not publicly commented on the lawsuit. 

The incident occurred when Border Patrol agents tried to stop the car after believing it was involved in migrant smuggling. A brief pursuit ensued after the driver failed to stop the car .

“A confrontation ensued, resulting in three agents discharging their firearms,” sheriff’s investigators said at the time.

The lawsuit claims Estrada was holding a cell phone in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. 

“The vehicle was stationary, and did not attempt to run down the agents,” the lawsuit states. “The vehicle’s egress was blocked.”

At that point, two backseat passengers “saw and heard bullets whizzing by them and were afraid they would be shot and killed,” according to the lawsuit.

The passengers, who authorities say were in the country illegally, were taken into custody. 

Split Verdict Rendered for Second Defendant to Stand Trial in Jan. 6 Attack

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo via Shutterstock.

By Steve Neavling

The second defendant to be tried for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol received a split verdict from a federal judge Tuesday. 

Couy Griffin, a 48-year-old county commissioner from New Mexico and “Cowboys for Trump” founder, was found guilty of breaching the grounds of the Capitol, Poltico reports.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden found him not guilty of disorderly conduct, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove that Griffin intended to disrupt Congress from certifying the election.

During the trial, the Secret Service was forced to reveal where former Vice President Mike Pence was taken during the insurrection. Testifying during the trial on Monday, Secret Service Inspector Lanelle Hawa said Pence remained at the loading dock for several hours. 

An oil field worker from Texas was the first defendant to stand trial. A jury found him guilty of all charges.

CBP Rescues Injured Hiker High Up in Huachucha Mountains in Arizona

CBP rescued an injured hiker. Screenshot via CBP video.

By Steve Neavling

CBP rescued a seasoned hunter who was injured from a fall and was running out of water in the Huachucha Mountains in Arizona. 

CBP’s Air and Marine Operations were called to the hiker’s location at about 2 p.m. on March 16 following a report that the woman may have broken her ankle and was running out of water.

CBP used a UH-60 Black Hock helicopter to help with the rescue because of high winds and rugged terrain. 

CBP wrote:

Upon arrival, given the terrain and winds, the crew took extra time to find the best place to insert two Rescue Specialists. After establishing a hover approximately 200 feet above the ground, the crew inserted the Rescue Specialists via hoist who medically evaluated the patient.  The Rescue Specialists realized that a litter extraction may not be possible because the aircraft would not be able to get low enough to support the line to keep the litter stable.  A Rescue Specialist a certified EMT performed a brief medical assessment and the patient stated that she could walk but not very far. Due to the shifting winds, it was necessary for the Rescue Specialists to move the hiker to another location to safely airlift her from the mountain. The hiker was packaged in an air rescue vest, hoisted back into the helicopter, and transported to Cochise County Search and Rescue personnel several miles away.

“Air and Marine aircrews are highly trained and experienced in performing these challenging types of rescues,” Michael Montgomery, director of the Tucson Air Branch, said. “Despite the environmental challenges posed by the high altitude and gusting winds our crews safely provided initial medical care and relocated this patient to a higher level of care.”

To see a video of the rescue, click here.

Secret Service Reveals Pence’s Hiding Location During Jan. 6 Insurrection

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

When Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Secret Service took former Vice President Mike Pence to an underground Capitol loading dock, an inspector with the agency confirmed during a trial stemming from the insurrection. 

Testifying during the trial on Monday, Secret Service Inspector Lanelle Hawa said Pence remained at the loading dock for several hours, CNN reports.

“We took him to a secure location … underground,” Secret Service inspector Lanelle Hawa testified. “It was in the loading dock.” 

The testimony marks the first time the government publicly revealed where Pence was taken.

Hawa was forced to testify in the trial of “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner charged with two misdemeanors for his involvement in the riot. Pence’s location is important to the case because prosecutors allege Griffin entered a restricted area created for Pence’s visit. 

“Griffin must be allowed to test the veracity of the Government’s contention that Vice President Pence was on the Capitol grounds during the relevant period,” Judge Trevor McFadden wrote days before the trial.