PGA rookie golfer Maverick McNealy had one of his best rounds of the season at the Houston Open on Sunday, but that was after he received some advice from his girlfriend – LPGA golfer Danielle Kang.
McNealy said after his 7-under 65, that he did well because he “got a talking-to yesterday on the phone.” He said Kang gave him advice after he shot a 73 in the third round of the Houston Open, according to PGATour.com.
“My best round on tour,” McNealy said. “I can build on this.”
Maverick McNealy of the United States plays his shot from the 13th tee during the first round of the Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on October 10, 2019 in Humble, Texas. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Kang is no slouch golfer. The 26-year-old has two LPGA Tour wins, including the victory at the Women’s PGA Championship in 2017. She also finished fourth in the U.S. Women’s Open in 2018.
Kang told McNealy to do three things: “Don’t look at the leaderboards,” “be stronger and stricter with the mental scorecards” and “say two good things to himself after every shot.”
The advice helped McNealy sink five consecutive birdies. He finished tied for 17th at the tournament.
He expressed optimism for the rest of the season.
Danielle Kang of Team USA celebrates her putt on the thirteenth green in her match against Carlota Ciganda of Team Europe during the final day singles matches of the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles on September 15, 2019 in Auchterarder, Scotland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
A UEFA European Championship qualifying soccer match between England and Bulgaria on Monday was marred by racist chant and Nazi salutes in the first half of the blowout.
The match was stopped in the 28th minute because of monkey chants that were aimed toward England’s black players, including defender Tyrone Mings and forward Raheem Sterling. The fans were warned by the stadium’s public announcer that the match would be called off if the chants continued. However, the match was again stopped in the 43rd minute.
Bulgaria fans in the crowd were also seen performing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and words which read “No Respect” — a reference to the European governing body’s “Respect” campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.
England manager Gareth Southgate, third left, speaks with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
During the second stoppage in play, several Bulgaria fans involved in the chanting had left the stadium.
The FA issued a statement on the issue, saying the English players “were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting.”
“This is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behavior in society, let alone in football,” The FA statement continued.
England fans celebrate during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
FA Chairman Greg Clarke added: “I would like to see a very stringent review by UEFA because I know they take racism very seriously. We should join a movement to drive racism out of our game and have zero tolerance for it.”
Bulgaria’s Ivelin Popov appeared to have a heated argument with some of the home fans and asked them to stop the chants, as the rest of the players went to the locker room at half time.
England manager Gareth Southgate, right, speaks with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
On Tuesday, Bulgaria Prime Minister Boyko Borrissov condemned the racist fans and called on soccer federation president Borislav Mihailov to resign.
Biden told ABC News, in an interview that aired on Tuesday, that he never made a mistake “based on some ethical lapse,” but acknowledged he exercised “poor judgment” by getting involved in something he compared to a “swamp.”
EXCLUSIVE: Hunter Biden says he did nothing “improper” while serving on board of Ukrainian gas company, but may have showed “poor judgment” in joining.
Hunter Biden on Sunday announced he was stepping down from his position as a director for Chinese investment company BHR Partners as Trump continues to accuse him and his father of corrupt activity in Ukraine and China.
Trump has urged foreign leaders, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Chinese government, to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival in the 2020 election.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into the president after a whistleblower complaint alleged he repeatedly pressured Zelensky and may have withheld U.S. military aid as leverage.
Trump claims Joe Biden, as vice president, called for the removal of a notoriously corrupt prosecutor in Ukraine for the purpose of impeding an investigation into Burisma, a Ukranian gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board of directors.
There’s no evidence Joe Biden or Hunter Biden did anything illegal. Hunter Biden told ABC News repeatedly that he never discussed his business dealings in Ukraine and China with his father.
Hunter Biden acknowledged that his last name helped him professionally, and that he likely wouldn’t have been asked to serve on Burisma’s board had he not been the vice president’s son.
“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part,” he told ABC News of his foreign business deals. “When I look back on it, I know that [I] did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is … a swamp in many ways? Yeah.”
He denied Trump’s claim that he raked in $1.5 billion from an investment deal in China, saying it has “no basis in fact in any way.”
In recent weeks, Trump has gone after Hunter Biden during his political rallies and in appearances to reporters, bashing him for avoiding the media while his business dealings have been thrust into the national spotlight.
“Where’s Hunter?” Trump tweeted several times over the last week.
Where’s Hunter? He has totally disappeared! Now looks like he has raided and scammed even more countries! Media is AWOL.
“I’m here,” Hunter Biden told ABC News. “I’m working and living my life.”
Biden said he made a “mistake” in giving a “hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father,” an apparent reference to Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s push for foreign leaders to investigate his family.
“Did I do anything improper?” Hunter Biden added. “No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, acknowledged in an interview to be broadcast on Tuesday that he probably would not have been named to the board of a foreign company if his last name weren’t Biden, but he rejected suggestions by President Trump that he and his father had engaged in wrongdoing.
“Did I make a mistake? Maybe in the grand scheme of things,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with ABC News, which published excerpts from it on Tuesday morning. “But did I make a mistake based on some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.”
“I don’t think there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden,” Mr. Biden told Amy Robach of ABC.
Mr. Trump has seized on the younger Mr. Biden’s work in Ukraine and China to launch a series of attacks against the former vice president, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, over the past month. There is no evidence for the president’s claims that Mr. Biden, while in office, improperly intervened to aid his son, but that has not stopped him and other Republicans from raising questions about possible conflicts of interest.
The younger Mr. Biden, who recently resigned from the board of a Chinese investment company, said his service there had become a “distraction, because I have to sit here and answer these questions. That’s why I have committed that I won’t serve on any board or work on any foreign entities when Dad becomes president. That’s the rule I’m going to adhere to.”
Mr. Biden, 49, said he had exercised “poor judgment” by getting involved in a situation that he compared to a “swamp.” But he blamed his father’s opponents, including Mr. Trump, for spreading a “ridiculous conspiracy idea” involving his work.
“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father,” he said. “That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
Many Democratic strategists and officials have warned that the issue threatens to become a distraction for the former vice president. Hunter Biden’s interview will be aired just hours before his father is to appear at the fourth presidential primary debate on Tuesday night. There, Mr. Biden will stand at the center of the stage, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who recently surpassed Mr. Biden in several polls.
The scrutiny on Mr. Biden and his family over the past month has injected a degree of risk and uncertainty into his campaign, making it all the more urgent for him to land the kind of consistently fluent, forceful debate performance that has so far eluded him, Democratic operatives and activists said.
A lawyer for Hunter Biden said Sunday in a statement that he planned to leave the board of the Chinese private equity company by the end of October, and that if the elder Mr. Biden were elected president, Hunter Biden would “agree not to serve on boards of, or work on behalf of, foreign-owned companies.”
Mr. Biden had previously served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Holdings, including during a time when his father was running American policy in that country, but he stepped down when the elder Mr. Biden announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.
While Mr. Biden said he learned of the statement from his son’s lawyers, the move appeared to be the first acknowledgment that Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings posed a threat to his father’s campaign.
For his part, the elder Mr. Biden on Sunday forcefully defended his son’s integrity and vehemently denied that there were conflicts of interest at play.
Instead, he took several barely veiled swipes at members of the Trump family, promising: “No one in my family will have an office in the White House, will sit in on meetings as if they’re a cabinet member, will in fact have any business relationship with anyone that relates to a foreign corporation or a foreign country.”
On Monday morning, Mr. Biden’s campaign released a plan centered on promoting ethics in government. His campaign and his allies have said that Mr. Biden would both push back forcefully against Mr. Trump and continue to discuss policy matters, like health care, on the debate stage and on the campaign trail.
Katie Glueck reported from Westerville, Ohio, and Stephanie Saul from New York.
A year after candidates of color flourished in Democratic primaries around the country during the midterm elections, the three leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are all white, while Asian American, Black and Latino candidates are trapped in single digits in public polling.
Heading into the fourth presidential debate in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday evening, three of the leading candidates of color find their campaigns in varying degrees of peril. Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro has suggested he may drop out of the race if he fails to qualify for the fifth debate in Georgia next month. Sen.Cory Booker (D-N.J.) just threatened to quit the contest unless he raised $1.7 million in 10 days. (He succeeded.) And Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who briefly ascended to the race’s top tier during the summer, is rejiggering her campaign with a focus on Iowa and a reworked stump speech.
In 2018, the picture was much different, with Democratic voters across the country eager to cast history-making ballots. Black candidates won gubernatorial primaries in Florida, Georgia and Maryland, and Arizona Democrats nominated a Latino. Democrats elected the first two Native American women to Congress, the first two Muslim women, the first Latina to ever represent Texas, and sent Rep. Lauren Underwood, an African American, to Congress from a district that is 86% white. Overall, 216 candidates for House, Senate or governor were people of color in 2018, which included a42% spikein the number of women of color running for those major offices. (The field for down-ballot contests in 2020 is still developing, but candidates of color could make similar gains this cycle.)
Interviews with voters, campaigns, candidates and operatives nationally and in the early primary states indicate there is no single cause for the struggles of the candidates of color. Many of the factors keeping them behind the three leading candidates in polling also affect white candidates who have failed to break into the race’s top tier. But the race’s focus on electability, the structure of the early nominating contests and differences in how the media treat candidates of color compared with white candidates are making things even more difficult.
The Electability Conversation
Scott Olson via Getty Images A poster advertises a Kamala Harris campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa. Harris has reworked her stump speech, which now includes a section asking voters to believe she can win the state’s crucial caucuses.
Democratic voters, in poll after poll and conversation after conversation, have indicated their priority when selecting a nominee in 2020 is someone who can beat Donald Trump. There’s plenty of reasons to think voters and pundits are bad at evaluating which candidates stand the best chance of defeating Trump, but that isn’t stopping the conversation.
“The conversation has been ‘Hmm, I don’t know if America is ready to elect a Black woman president of the United States,’” Harris told a crowd of about 50 at a block party in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday. “It’s been a conversation, ’Oh, I can see it, but I don’t know if my neighbors are ready. Maybe it’s not her turn, maybe it’s not her time, maybe it might be too hard. We got to play it safe. … Maybe we can’t take that bet.’”
The riff is a new one for Harris ― she also mentions her undefeated record in elections and her work to persuade an Iowa caucus-goer about Barack Obama’s electability in 2008 ― and it shows how she still needs to convince a broad swath of the electorate that she can win.
Booker, similarly, has argued that turning out younger and African American voters is as important as winning over the much-ballyhooed white working class when it comes to defeating Trump.
Not everyone is convinced electability is what’s holding back Booker, Harris and Castro. Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPAC, which works to turn out Black voters, said Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012 had largely quieted concerns about whether race was a barrier to winning the country. And Warren, who faced more concerns than any other candidate about her ability to beat Trump in the first half of the year, has managed to persuade voters.
But Ross Wilburn, an Iowa state representative who has endorsed Harris, said the constant barrage of news from Trump’s White House and the president’s willingness to engage in out-and-out racist rhetoric have made voters more cautious.
“Because of what President Trump is doing, and the hate he spews, and the chaos that he’s creating to divert our attention from illegal acts, people get cautious,” he said after Harris’ block party. “They want to go with the familiar. Part of her message is: ‘We can believe. We’ve believed before.’”
Mike Blake / Reuters Joe Biden and Julian Castro talk after the Democratic debate on Sept. 12 in Houston, where the pair clashed over health care.
The campaigns have also occasionally found themselves trapped in unfriendly media dynamics and dealing with a political press corps that still has a long way to go on the diversity front. Several operatives pointed to Castro’s showdown with former Vice President Joe Biden at the most recent debate. The first person voters heard from after the debate ended? It was former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served with Biden in the Obama administration and criticized Castro for challenging Biden.
The post-debate pundits “overwhelmingly tend to be older, white and more moderate or conservative voices, which is absolutely crazy in a primary with this many diverse candidates, where the diversity of our base is going to be what propels us to victory,” said one operative working for a candidate of color, who requested anonymity to freely critique media coverage of the race.
All the candidates of color have also faced another trap: They’re expected to be both representatives of their race on the national stage while also appealing to the broader electorate. No small amount of coverage of businessman Andrew Yang’s campaign has focused on how Asian American voters are reacting to his candidacy. Coverage of Castro has focused on his bold immigration policy. But if his campaign had released a more by-the-numbers plan, the media likely would’ve zeroed in on that and questioned why he wasn’t more aggressive. Similarly, much of the coverage of Harris and Booker has focused on their criminal justice reform plans and records.
“If you don’t talk about it, it’s ‘why aren’t you talking about this when it impacts people who look like you?’ But if they do talk about it, it’s ‘She’s just going to be the president of Black people,’” Shropshire noted, while praising the candidates for unveiling expansive platforms regardless. “But they’ve done a good job managing it. None of these people are single-issue candidates.”
Harris and Booker have faced another problem. Both are running as candidates trying to find a sweet spot between progressives and moderates, neither embracing policies as liberal as those of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), nor bashing those policies and tacking to the center in the style of Biden. That means they’re occasionally minimized or left out of stories about the race’s central ongoing narrative: the ideological clash within the Democratic Party.
“They just really haven’t defined their base yet,” Yvette Simpson, the president of the left-leaning group Democracy for America, said of Booker and Harris. “Biden is sucking all the air out of the room for anyone who’s not a pure progressive, while Sanders and Warren are winning over the votes of progressives.”
And generally the candidates’ lower standings in the polls mean they get less media attention. Another operative working for the campaign of a candidate of color complained about struggling to get coverage of major policy rollouts and campaign speeches, “while CNN and MSNBC cover Joe Biden eating an ice cream cone.”
The Inevitability Of Biden And Sanders
Mike Blake / Reuters Former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a televised Los Angeles town hall Thursday on CNN dedicated to LGBTQ issues.
Some of the challenges for Harris, Booker and Castro aren’t totally dissimilar from those facing white candidates like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) or Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Biden and Sanders, the 2016 runner-up who changed the Democratic Party, were always going to dominate media attention, early polling and fundraising. Warren’s steady rise has ensured she’s joined that group.
Now the three top candidates are in a self-fulfilling cycle of sorts: They get more media coverage, money and strong poll results than anyone else, helping them get even more money and media attention, which helps them keep their strong position in the polls. Breaking into this virtuous cycle has proved difficult for most of the candidates, except for Warren, Buttigieg and ― for a time over the summer ― Harris.
“There’s the idea of electability, and there’s the idea of anoint-ability,” said the second operative working for a candidate of color. “The media, the [Democratic National Committee], the benchmarks they set, the white candidates were always going to be able to meet them. It’s been a lot harder for candidates of color.”
But the early-state voting order ― Iowa, which is the nation’s fifth-whitest state, votes first; and New Hampshire, the nation’s third-whitest state, votes second ― is part of the problem. Much of the public polling, which influences donors, voters and who makes the debate stage, is focused on these two states. During the time period to qualify via polling for the third debate, only one public poll of Nevada, the most diverse of the four early-voting states, was released.
Still, it’s not unprecedented for Black candidates to triumph in either state. Obama won the 2008 Iowa caucus, and Deidre DeJear ― now Harris’ Iowa campaign chair ― won an upset victory to become the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in 2018.
How Things Could Turn Around
Mario Tama via Getty Images Andrew Yang’s campaign has succeeded in raising his profile and introducing voters to his signature campaign plan: a universal basic income of $1,000 a month.
So far, the lack of a candidate of the color in the top tier has bewildered some Democratic operatives and left some worried about generating sufficient Black and Latino turnout in order to win the nomination. But there is still time for the candidates of color to sprint to the nomination race’s upper ranks. More voters may tune into the race as voting nears, and Tuesday night’s debate stage provides them with another high-profile opportunity.
And if Harris or Booker, in particular, manage to break through, there could be immense political rewards. Black voters in South Carolina and in delegate-rich Super Tuesday states, several operatives noted, may flock to support a viable Black candidate.
“African Americans and voters of color tend to wait until they’re sure you can win,” said Simpson. “It’s a bit of a Catch-22 for these candidates.”
And even if the candidates fail to win, they can still point to personal and historical progress. Castro, little-known nationally before this race, has emerged as a favorite of progressives for his willingness to push the envelope on policy and sharply challenge more moderate Democrats. Few Democratic operatives give the unorthodox campaign of Yang much chance of success, but he’s managed to popularize the idea of a universal basic income and created a mini-movement at his back.
“When I began my career a decade ago, it was unimaginable we might one day have two Black candidates for president,” said Rosy Gonzalez Speers, the executive director of Forward Florida. “I’m excited for our party. It’s only October, and there’s a lot of race left to run, so I wouldn’t count any candidates out yet.”
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.
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George Nelson Shaw Sr. died at a VA hospital in West Virginia in 2018. His death was ruled a homicide by an Armed Forces medical examiner. It’s one of 10 deaths under investigation by authorities. Jack Gruber, USA TODAY
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – It was 1:55 a.m., and Felix “Kirk” McDermott was struggling to breathe.
He was cold and clammy. A doctor called to his bedside at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, noted white foam oozing from the 82-year-old’s mouth and a crackling sound coming from his lungs. McDermott’s heart was racing; his pupils were pinpoints.
Seemingly out of the blue, the Vietnam veteran’s blood sugar had plummeted dangerously – to one-sixth the level that triggers urgent treatment, medical records show.
That dramatic decline could have been a significant clue, since McDermott was not diabetic. But it was not recognized as such in the early morning hours of April 9, 2018.
It was just one in a string of oversights at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center that risked, and may have cost, other veterans’ lives. Now, those missed opportunities limit the evidence available to prosecutors as they seek to build a criminal case.
“When someone has intention to do harm in these settings, they will take advantage of any loopholes, any opportunities to exploit the system,” said Elizabeth Yardley, a criminology professor at Birmingham City University in England who has studied nurses convicted of murder. “It can be an investigative nightmare.”
Hospital spokesman Wesley Walls said officials notified authorities “immediately upon discovering these serious allegations” and put “safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients.” The person has been removed from patient care.
Events before and after McDermott’s death suggest numerous lapses in medical diligence.
Nurses quickly began treating his symptoms, giving him glucose. But medical records do not indicate that anyone ordered a blood test that could have detected the unprescribed insulin investigators suspect coursed through his veins, killing him.
After he died, no one at the hospital ordered an autopsy despite the mysterious drop in blood sugar.
Insulin on the ward wasn’t adequately tracked, so there was no easy way to tell whether any was missing that night, employees said. In fact, they said, insulin was routinely left unsecured, violating the hospital’s own policies. Complicating matters further, Unit 3A had no video surveillance to document the movement of its insulin – or its employees.
McDermott was the second of three men to die under similar circumstances over three days. Yet no one tipped off authorities that something was amiss for two and a half months, even as the death toll continued to climb, on the same ward, in the same way.
High-risk insulin left out, violating policy
Insulin saves lives by keeping blood sugar in check, whether produced naturally in our bodies or administered, as with diabetics. But too much can be deadly.
Symptoms of overdose include cold sweats and a fast heartbeat, as well as confusion and loss of consciousness.
McDermott suffered from dementia, so confusion might have been hard to diagnose. But his heart was racing and, when his daughter arrived at his bedside before dawn, she found him drifting in and out of consciousness.
He was the only patient in a room near the end of a hallway, on the third-floor medical surgical unit known as 3A.
For four hours, McDermott’s blood sugar fluctuated, out of control. Nursing staff checked it every 15 minutes, his records show. When they gave him glucose, it shot up, then tanked again.
“You had like a couple minutes that he’d talk to you, then he’d be back like he was sleeping,” his daughter, Melanie Proctor, recalled. “Sometimes you could give his arm a shake, or, you know, ‘Hey dad, are you going to talk to us?’ and sometimes he would and other times, he wouldn’t.”
VA Inspector General Michael Missal has said his office is working with the FBI to investigate potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths at the hospital. His office declined to provide any details, as have the FBI and Department of Justice, saying they want to protect the integrity of the investigation.
Family members interviewed by investigators said they were told a person of interest may have been responsible for injecting the insulin that killed as many as 10 patients on Unit 3A, a scope confirmed by someone familiar with the investigation. The deaths under investigation span the last half of 2017 through July 2018.
“These guys were dying the exact same way, one after another,” said personal injury attorney Tony O’Dell. “It’s inconceivable that the hospital staff wouldn’t recognize this pattern and prevent the next one.”
But pinpointing where the insulin came from will be challenging.
The Joint Commission, which accredits a majority of hospitals across the country – including the more than 150 VAs that treat about 9 million veterans annually – flagged insulin nearly 20 years ago as a “high-alert” medication, one of five with the “highest risk of causing injury when misused.” The commission requires hospitals to manage the medications safely.
The agency lets each hospital create its own policies, so practices vary widely.
At the VA hospital in Clarksburg, policies dating to 2015 list insulin among high-risk medications that “must be stored in a locked area.” A memo signed by hospital director Glenn Snider on Feb. 10, 2018, directs that “all drugs stored in the ward and clinic areas will be kept locked in medication carts, cabinets or medication rooms.”
Yet on Unit 3A, insulin routinely was left unsecured on hallway medication carts, according to two hospital employees who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. One of them offered details: Insulin was left on top of the carts, the carts weren’t locked or the locks weren’t working.
Walls, the hospital spokesman, said it is not accurate that insulin was routinely left unsecured in violation of hospital policy. Insulin, he added, can be purchased at drug stores without a prescription.
“Also, it’s important to note that regulations and protocols can only do so much to protect against criminal activity,” Walls said.
Since the flurry of deaths last year, the Clarksburg VA has improved its insulin monitoring. A policy updated in September requires that two people be present when insulin is retrieved from locked medication cabinets, according to copies of internal directives obtained by USA TODAY.
Another, governing operation of medication carts, was issued April 2 and signed by Paul Carter, the hospital’s associate director for patient care services. It said nursing staff would be issued six-digit PIN codes for the carts.
“Once the medication(s) has been retrieved,” the policy warns, “you MUST ensure all drawers are closed and the medication cart is locked.”
Amid cluster of deaths, failure to detect a pattern
As McDermott’s body lay lifeless after the hours-long struggle to save him, staff placed a frame on his gurney and draped an American flag on top.
The hospital chaplain was summoned to say a prayer. A recording of taps played as workers slowly rolled the veteran away. Nursing staff and others stopped what they were doing. Some stood at attention, others offered their thoughts on the deceased.
“Anybody that had dealt with him that night … said something, you know, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ ” recalled Proctor, McDermott’s daughter. “I can remember one of them saying, ‘Your dad had one heck of a sense of humor.’ ”
The flag tradition is known as a “final salute.” It played out the same way the next day for George Nelson Shaw Sr., 81, an Air Force veteran and avid bowler, who also had suffered a bout of acute low blood sugar.
The VA follows many similar traditions. And it is bound by thousands of regulations, including strict protocols to avoid patterns of failure.
When a major incident causes a patient harm, hospital leaders are required to file a report in a national database. That information, kept confidential, is gathered to develop lessons for the nationwide health care system.
Such incidents are supposed to be designated “sentinel events.”
More than 1 million of these “root-cause” analyses and accompanying safety reports have been entered into the system since it was established, according to the VA.
At the Clarksburg hospital, the cluster of unexpected patient deaths after acute low-blood sugar episodes apparently triggered no such reporting or inquiry. In addition to Shaw and McDermott, William Alfred Holloway, 96, and Army veteran Archie Edgell, 84, all died within a 16-day period.
Weeks after the last of those deaths, inspectors visited the hospital for a routine care review. They noted the hospital had not designated a single event as sentinel in the prior 32 months.
The inspectors cited a half-dozen serious episodes over that time that they said should have been flagged as possible sentinel events. They said administrators failed to report other major medical problems and to disclose the information to patients and their families.
A month after that visit, in June 2018, a group of Clarksburg VA doctors brought concerns about the deaths to the hospital’s patient safety staff, according to a timeline released by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The safety staff notified the hospital director, who called VA headquarters in Washington.
The inspector general’s office again sent out inspectors, who arrived at the beginning of July – as the suspected death toll reached 10.
When asked about reporting delays, Walls, the hospital spokesman, said, “VA’s independent inspector general has been investigating this issue for longer than it took (hospital staff) to identify it.” He referred questions about “specific timelines” to investigators.
Missal, the VA inspector general, said federal authorities “have been working with urgency to complete the investigation. The families and the public deserve nothing less.”
Insulin tests came months late, after blood evidence was drained
Proving homicides by insulin injection can be difficult with even the best evidence. At the Clarksburg VA, tests for insulin came months later when bodies were exhumed – after potential blood evidence had been drained and bodies embalmed. One veteran had been cremated.
The doctor called to McDermott’s bedside early on the morning of April 9 had ordered a chest X-ray and a diuretic in case of fluid buildup in his lungs, medical records show. He was placed on a machine to help him breathe.
The doctor ordered blood tests that confirmed McDermott’s sugar and oxygen levels were low. But, according to a copy of the medical records provided to USA TODAY, those tests did not measure insulin or a key amino acid – C-peptide – that specialists said could have detected the unprescribed insulin.
“If people don’t have diabetes, they should do that (test),” said Adrian Vella, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and author of a literature review on the topic. “You’re supposed to check glucose … and you’re supposed to get an insulin and C-peptide.”
Other specialists said providers may not routinely order such tests if other factors could help explain low blood sugar levels, such as liver problems, infection or other medications.
Washington University School of Medicine professor emeritus Philip Cryer said such factors wouldn’t explain McDermott’s “profound hypoglycemia all of a sudden.”
“You could not explain that absent measurements of insulin and C-peptide,” said Cryer, who co-wrote clinical guidelines for evaluating low-blood sugar disorders. “Ideally, those should have been measured.”
McDermott had been admitted to Unit 3A three days earlier with a fever and cough. He had heart problems along with his dementia. Medical staff diagnosed him with pneumonia from inhaled food.
He had been responding to antibiotics and, the day before his death, a doctor noted in his chart that he was “much more alert and talking with family.” His blood-sugar level was normal – until suddenly it wasn’t.
By 6 a.m., after staff had tried for four hours to stabilize McDermott without success, Proctor and other family members told them to stop medical intervention, to let him go.
When he died three hours later, his daughter said, the family didn’t request an autopsy because “we thought he had passed on his own, natural causes.”
Possible autopsy criteria itemized in McDermott’s medical record include “unexpected or unexplained” death “when clinical course seemed to be improving.” Staff did not indicate that he met that criteria.
Even if the family had asked for an autopsy, it’s unclear whether an examination at the hospital would have revealed anything untoward. When Shaw passed away the next day, a hospital autopsy requested by his family concluded he had died from heart failure.
McDermott’s remains were exhumed six months after his death, in October 2018, and sent to Dover Air Force Base for an autopsy. An armed forces medical examiner identified an injection site in his abdomen that tested positive for insulin.
On Shaw’s body, exhumed and re-autopsied in January, the examiner found four insulin injection sites – two on the left arm, one on the right and another on his right thigh.
Like McDermott, Shaw had no history of diabetes or prescribed insulin. The examiner concluded both men had been killed by insulin injection.
Walls, the hospital spokesman, declined to comment on blood tests and autopsies performed at the hospital, again referring questions to investigators.
Michelle Aurelius, a member of the Autopsy Committee with the College of American Pathologists, said the scope of hospital and medical examiner autopsies differ, even though the methods are similar.
A hospital autopsy typically looks for evidence of disease in a natural death to provide explanations for physicians and families. A forensic autopsy focuses on sudden, unexpected and possibly violent death, with a goal of determining the manner and cause while gathering evidence for law enforcement.
Since insulin needles are tiny, Aurelius said, it “may be very difficult or impossible to find an injection site.”
Howard Robin, a California pathologist, said initial autopsies may detect needle marks, but pathologists “must have a significant level of suspicion to make the diagnosis” of homicide by insulin injection.
Clarksburg spellbound by ‘Twilight Zone’ whodunit
Signs outside the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center clearly state its mission. One notes that the hospital “honors our heroes,” another that “the price of freedom is visible here.”
Inside, there is no indication of the pall cast by the recent headlines. A lobby shop stocks black and gold Steelers gear, women’s shoes and snacks. Medical workers in scrubs counsel a veteran in the emergency room lobby and wish visitors in hallways a good day.
Nearly everywhere else, news of the deaths has gripped the city of Clarksburg since it became public in August when the first legal action, a wrongful death claim seeking $6 million on behalf of McDermott, was filed by Tony O’Dell.
The VA hospital has a huge footprint here. It is among the economically depressed area’s biggest employers, with 1,000 workers, and draws patients from across the region, serving about 70,000 veterans in north central West Virginia and nearby Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
O’Dell, a partner in a firm in the state capital, also represents other victims’ families in the case. He blames the Clarksburg VA for failures both systemic and pervasive. O’Dell says the hospital breached its duty to warn patients and their families.
“There is simply no excuse whatsoever for these deaths to have gone on for so long,” he said. “That is an insult to these veterans’ families, and they should be ashamed.”
At a Panera Bread restaurant on the edge of Clarksburg, Norma Shaw fights back tears as she talks about her husband’s death. She is angry – at the possible assailant, at the hospital, at the VA in general.
“I trusted those people, I did,” she said.
McDermott’s daughter feels the same way.
“I’m still very angry – still very, very angry,” she said.
Veterans who gathered to hear a band on a recent Thursday at the American Legion Post `3 lamented that the case turned a national spotlight on the town, for all the wrong reasons.
“It just breaks our hearts,” said Michael Greaver, the post’s commander. “It’s so bad for morale in our community.”
Behind the bar, Susie Jimenez doled out Budweisers and pull-tab raffle tickets. She sees the outside attention a little differently, saying she hopes the pressure continues until “justice is served for these veterans.”
Jimenez criticized the hospital for not telling the public for 14 months after the investigation was launched, saying, “It shouldn’t have been swept under the rug.”
Walls said investigators instructed the hospital not to share information with anyone outside the inspector general’s office. The hospital told employees not to speak with the news media either. Many doctors, nurses and nursing assistants who worked on 3A at the time of the deaths declined to comment or failed to respond to messages left at their homes.
When a reporter visited a residence listed for the person of interest in public records, a man outside accepted a handwritten note seeking comment, but no one got back in touch.
Speculation about the person ripples through conversations in town these days. USA TODAY is not identifying them because authorities have not named or charged anyone. But locally, pictures of a former hospital employee have been posted and discussed online.
Back at the American Legion hall, Greaver – an Iraq War veteran with 17 years’ active duty in the Army and Navy – said he has received medical care at the hospital for years.
“I walk the halls of that hospital, and there’s family members, friends everywhere,” he said.
“It’s very unfortunate that an Alfred Hitchcock episode – “Twilight Zone” episode – happened here,” he said. “Now everybody’s asking questions, across America.”
Contributing: Ken Alltucker
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/10/15/clarksburg-va-deaths-hospital-oversights-lapses-limit-homicide-evidence/3922640002/
Criticism of NFL referees overshadowed Monday night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions as players and even one Hall of Famer chimed in on the officiating.
Lions defensive back Tracy Walker was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a play in which he collided with Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison. Walker said after the game he was just trying to go for the ball and described the call as “awful” – a word he would use multiple times to describe the officiating.
“Awful. It was an awful call,” he said, according to ESPN. “I felt like I went for the ball and [it] just so happened we collided, but I was looking for the ball. It was an awful call by them. It is what it is, though.”
Referee Clete Blakeman explained in the pool report that regardless of intent Walker’s helmet-to-helmet contact will always draw a penalty.
Walker, a second-year safety, expressed his frustrations to reporters with the referees after the Lions’ 23-22 loss to the Packers.
“Extremely pissed off right now,” Walker said. “It is what it is. Disappointed. Hurt. We had that game. I’m going to say the same s—t. We should have won it. It is what it is, though. Got to bounce back.”
He added that even though there were some “awful calls” he knows the team had to play through it.
Walker was asked if he cared whether he gets fined for his comments, he said he didn’t.
“Detroit vs. Everybody,” Walker said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I’m saying it. Detroit vs. Everybody. It’s awful.”
Detroit defensive end Trey Flowers also had trouble with the officiating as he was flagged twice for illegal use of hands. According to ESPN, he explained exactly what he was doing.
Detroit Lions defensive back Tracy Walker, bottom, and defensive back Tavon Wilson (32) break up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (81) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
“I actually changed the position of my hand, because it was to the chest initially,” Flowers said. “Which is right here. I was doing it all game. I didn’t know that was a flag to the chest, so I could change it to [motioning somewhere else on his chest]. They called it again.”
Walker and Flowers’ frustrations were echoed by Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.
“That is sickening… the @NFL needs to look at a way to prevent that from happening. Two phantom hands to the face calls really hurts us tonight. Yes, we could have scored TDs, but @Lions played too well to have the game end this way,” Sanders wrote in a tweet.
Detroit was called for eight penalties for 50 yards. The Packers were also flagged six times for 48 yards.
“We all know we can’t have those penalties, whatever it was that caused those to take place,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “We’ll go back and take a look at it and make sure we’re coaching it better, make sure we’re doing the right things. Just can’t have them. We know how dangerous Aaron Rodgers is and how detrimental those penalties are.”
One night in 2006, Houston police pulled him over for a missing license plate and told him to walk a straight line.
Vara said that he hadn’t had a drop to drink and that he passed the sobriety test. Officer William Lindsey said otherwise.
At trial, jurors were told about Lindsey’s expertise evaluating drunken drivers. They were told about Vara’s two previous DWIs.
What jurors weren’t told: Officer Lindsey had been found guilty of misconduct by his department 35 times. He was investigated for padding his overtime – by manipulating DWI arrests so he would have to be called to testify — among many other violations.
In a case that came down to one man’s word against another’s, jurors believed the police officer. Because of his prior offenses, Vara was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
What happened to Vara has been unconstitutional for more than 50 years.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that prosecutors must tell anyone accused of a crime about all evidence that might help their defense at trial. That includes sharing details about police officers who have committed crimes, lied on the job or whose honesty has been called into doubt.
A USA TODAY Network investigation found that widespread failure by police departments and prosecutors to track problem officers makes it impossible to disclose that information to people whose freedom hinges on the integrity of law enforcement.
Reporters for USA TODAY and its partners, including the Chicago-based Invisible Institute, spent more than a year gathering Brady lists from police and prosecutors in thousands of counties to measure compliance with the landmark 1963 ruling in the Brady v. Maryland case.
Thousands of people have faced criminal charges or gone to prison based in part on testimony from law enforcement officers deemed to have credibility problems by their bosses or by prosecutors.
At least 300 prosecutors’ offices across the nation are not taking steps necessary to comply with the Supreme Court mandates. These places do not have a list tracking dishonest or otherwise untrustworthy officers. They include big cities such as Chicago and Little Rock and smaller communities such as Jackson County, Minnesota, and Columbia County, Pennsylvania.
In many places that keep lists, police and prosecutors refuse to make them public, making it impossible to know whether they are following the law.
Others keep lists that are incomplete. USA TODAY identified at least 1,200 officers with proven histories of lying and other serious misconduct who had not been flagged by prosecutors. Of those officers, 261 were specifically disciplined for dishonesty on the job.
The inconsistent compliance with the Brady requirements comes amid a nationwide debate over law enforcement tactics. A string of killings by police over the past five years in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Chicago and elsewhere have sparked unrest and a reckoning that put pressure on cities and mayors to crack down on problem officers.
The revelations also come as reversals of wrongful convictions pile up. The National Registry of Exonerations shows that cases overturned because of perjury and official misconduct by prosecutors or police have more than doubled from 2008 to 2018.
Houston man spends 11 years in jail studying law to prove his innocence
Revat Vara was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He spent 11 years in jail studying law to overturn his conviction.
USA TODAY talked to dozens of prosecutors and police officials across the nation.
Two county prosecutors promised to alter their policies or procedures for complying with Brady’s requirements in response to inquiries from USA TODAY.
“Now that you have raised this issue, we will consult with our corporation counsel and our circuit court supervisor about creating and maintaining a list,” Maui County Prosecutor John Kim told the newspaper.
Most prosecutors who don’t keep a Brady list said they don’t need one because they know all of their police officers well.
“I do not have a so-called Brady list. I do not have a written policy,” said Steve Giddens, the district attorney in Talladega County, Alabama. “I do not need one to follow the law.”
Others raised concerns about unfairly jeopardizing law enforcement officers’ jobs by placing them on a list based on minor or unfounded accusations.
Unions representing law enforcement officers have been especially outspoken opponents. In California, the union representing Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies went to court to stop the department from disclosing 300 deputies with misconduct histories. The state Supreme Court ruled against the deputies in August.
The lists are not designed to track people who should not be officers. Rather they are a tool prosecutors use to identify those whose past conduct might raise questions about their fairness or truthfulness as a witness in a trial – and require disclosure to defendants.
The argument about maintaining the lists or making them public has led to political battles, especially in cities where newly elected prosecutors have made fighting police misconduct part of their platform.
A training manual for Brady disclosure in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office states that the general rule is “Disclose. Disclose. Disclose.”
The tack has put the prosecutor’s office at war with the Philadelphia police union, which called the office’s maintenance of a Brady list a “witch hunt.”
In Baltimore, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby started forcing officers who could be witnesses to disclose their internal affairs investigations.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby wants police officers’ records. Steve Ruark/AP
Mosby appointed a “criminal discovery liaison” to review all court-related requests for officers’ internal affairs information and send detailed records to prosecutors and other parties within 48 hours.
Mosby said the effort was necessary to increase trust and transparency in the city’s criminal justice system after years of scandal around corrupt police units and the increased tension between residents and police since the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in 2015.
Last year, the state’s attorney’s office started reviewing court cases involving at least 25 Baltimore police officers because of misconduct charges against them.
Prosecutors recently began asking the courts to vacate nearly 800 convictions that involved testimony or investigations by these officers – and more could be coming as the office continues to gather information.
More than 530 Baltimore police officers have been added to an internal notification system, and defense attorneys are contacted if those officers are considered by prosecutors as witnesses. That list includes 183 officers who, because of their backgrounds, are automatically disclosed to the defense.
For Vara, who spent a decade behind bars for a crime he said he didn’t commit, an easily available Brady list could have changed his life.
At the time of his trial, Houston police and the Harris County prosecutor’s office were aware of Lindsey’s history of misconduct. As part of its last investigation into Lindsey, the police department asked the prosecutor’s office to charge him with a crime. The officer resigned rather than answer more questions – months before Vara’s trial.
Vara’s attorneys said the case boiled down to Lindsey’s word against Vara’s.
Revat Vara, wrongfully convicted in Texas
It’s crazy and it’s scary how these guys got the power to change your life like that. The badge and that uniform gives them the power to do that.
“There’s no breath test, no blood tests,” said Celeste Blackburn, who represented Vara on appeal.
Blackburn said Lindsey was the only police officer present that night to testify that Vara was drunk. In fact, court records indicate the other two officers said the smell of alcohol could have come from the passenger – a drunken buddy whom Vara had gone out that night to give a safe ride home.
Neither Vara nor his defense lawyer knew about Lindsey’s history at the time of trial.
“It’s crazy and it’s scary how these guys got the power to change your life like that,” Vara said. “The badge and that uniform gives them the power to do that.”
A police union attorney informed the Houston Police Department in 2006 that Lindsey would not respond to the allegations, department records show. At Vara’s trial, Lindsey testified that he left law enforcement to pursue his love of teaching. He could not be reached for comment for this article.
For decades, U.S. courts have set a high standard for prosecutors when it comes to disclosing problems in police officers’ pasts that might raise questions about their honesty and integrity as witnesses.
Building on Brady vs. Maryland, a landmark case that exonerated a wrongfully convicted Maryland man, courts have repeatedly held that prosecutors must tell defendants what they know about law enforcement officers’ backgrounds.
In a series of separate rulings, the Supreme Court has said that means prosecutors should know the backgrounds of the officers they rely on to put people in prison – and they must tell defendants what they know, whether they ask or not.
Supreme Court Justice William Douglas wrote in the Brady vs. Maryland decision
Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair.
“Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair,” Supreme Court Justice William Douglas wrote in the Brady decision.
Legal scholars have generally interpreted the rulings as a requirement that prosecutors create a list of officers with credibility problems.
But there is no comprehensive rule for what kind of behavior lands an officer on a list and few repercussions for police and prosecutors who flout the requirement.
Some prosecutors include only officers who have lied in court or falsified evidence. Others list those who have committed crimes, including drunken driving, or shown racial bias on the job. USA TODAY found wide variation in the level of documentation or investigation underlying officers’ inclusion on the list. Some might have been convicted criminally or flagged by judges for lying in court. Others had been found guilty in internal investigations. And many have been accused of wrongdoing and their cases are pending. In some cases, prosecutors’ lists don’t even say why an officer’s name is there.
Search the answers of prosecutors who responded to USA TODAY.
In Miami-Dade County, internal training presentations obtained by USA TODAY show prosecutors being taught legal tactics to avoid disclosing officers’ histories.
The documents say prosecutors don’t have to go out of their way to disclose, and the burden of proving they covered up a questionable officer’s history is on the defense.
Prosecutor training in Miami
In Miami-Dade County, internal training presentations obtained by USA TODAY show prosecutors being taught legal tactics to avoid disclosing officers’ histories. The documents say the burden of proving they covered up a questionable officer’s history is on the defense. The end of the slideshow casts disclosure as a game of strategy between prosecutors and the defense.
“Mere speculation by defense that information MAY be exculpatory is not enough to trigger state’s obligation to disclose,” the presentation states.
The end of the Miami training slideshow casts the strategy of hiding officer misconduct as a contest between prosecutors and the defense.
“You were happily playing Scrabble … but now you’re playing Chess,” one slide reads. “THAT’S A GAME CHANGER, SON.”
Ed Griffith, a spokesman for Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the elected state attorney in Miami-Dade County, contended the presentation does not provide instructions on avoiding disclosure of Brady material and said the chess game comparison in the slide was an attempt to “add a level of attention-getting levity to a very serious subject.”
“The problem with levity is that it does not always accomplish its intended goal,” he said. “This appears to be one of those situations.”
Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor and now Pace Law School professor, said the courts have made it clear the burden is on prosecutors and leans heavily toward disclosure. Failing to disclose is not a game to be won, Gershman said, but a duty designed to protect the integrity of the court system.
“It’s dishonest if that’s the way they’re presenting the obligation of Brady,” he said.
Gershman said the lack of tracking and policies about disclosing officers’ misconduct is troubling because it’s at the heart of the legal system’s promise to provide every defendant a fair trial – a standard prosecutors are sworn to protect.
“If you’re putting a witness on the stand – whoever the witnesses, but particularly a police officer – and you have doubts about his credibility, doesn’t that raise a question of whether you’re prosecuting a guilty or an innocent person?” Gershman asked.
USA TODAY sought records and comments from nearly every state prosecutor in the country to compile the first national view of where Brady lists exist and don’t.
Nearly half the prosecutorial districts that responded reported not keeping an official list. More than 1,000 did not respond to the requests at all.
In Chicago, the Cook County State’s Attorney, the second biggest prosecutor’s office in the country, said it does not keep a Brady list.
Instead, the office sends individual memos to its prosecutors when it learns a police officer was convicted of a crime or was found by a judge to have lied under oath, telling them to avoid using the cops if possible or to notify defense attorneys. The system leaves individual prosecutors in the sprawling jurisdiction with America’s second-largest police force on their own to track officers with credibility issues.
The result: A USA TODAY analysis found that dozens of officers flagged by judges or convicted of crimes were summoned to testify at trial in recent years, with no assurance the defense was notified.
In at least four officers’ cases, criminal court judges found the cops lied under oath during a trial. Court records show those four officers alone were listed as witnesses in at least 48 cases after prosecutors began receiving notices about them.
Overall, officers who appeared in notification memos were called to testify in cases resulting in more than 100 felony convictions from 2013-2018.
Across the country, thousands of defendants have gone to trial with no clear way to know that law enforcement witnesses had a history of misconduct.
David B. Green was among the officers who continued to patrol the streets despite a history of misconduct.
In 2011, Little Rock police suspended Green after he bashed a handcuffed suspect’s face into the ground during an arrest, then lied about it.
Green claimed the suspect resisted him by trying to stand up during the encounter. A department review of body camera footage showed that the suspect didn’t try to stand. Two other officers were holding the man down while Green beat him.
Green was suspended for 30 days for untruthfulness and excessive force. His personnel file includes at least 19 suspensions and reprimands for offenses including domestic violence, excessive force and neglect of duty.
Green, who unsuccessfully appealed the charges against him, could not be reached for comment. In an interview conducted as part of an internal affairs investigation, Green did not deny the allegations against him but expressed dedication toward his job. “Even though I get to work and I may not go home, I still love this job,” he said. Department records show he is a military veteran and received commendations in 2000 and 2005 for taking lifesaving actions.
Until November 2015, Green continued to patrol Arkansas’ largest city. His word was relied upon to arrest and help convict defendants.
Former Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas disclosed in legal proceedings that his agency doesn’t inform anyone at the courthouse about problems with his officers.
“We don’t maintain or forward a result of every disciplinary action to either the U.S. attorney or the state court,” Thomas said in a deposition in 2013. “I’m not aware that we provide a list or a continuing update or anything like that.”
USA TODAY reviewed discipline files for Little Rock police officers going back 15 years, then compared them with court records. The analysis found officers who the department determined lied or committed crimes were witnesses in at least 4,000 cases.
Officer Kenneth Thompson filed a report falsely claiming no one was injured after he knocked a suspect off his chair in 2005, despite video evidence to the contrary. He was suspended by the police department for 30 days. His sworn testimony has been used in at least 687 criminal cases since then.
Pulaski County Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson
When this office is made aware of disciplinary actions by an officer (and) they’re going to testify as a witness, we disclose that to the judge and let the judge make an independent finding as far as whether or not something is admissible pursuant to Brady.
Officers James Stanchak and Michael Terry were suspended in 2011 after they were caught on body camera video conspiring to lie about using force while arresting a man at a football game. Stanchak’s sworn statements have since been used in 222 cases. Terry’s have been used in four.
Officer Eugene Gray was suspended for 30 days in 2008 after he lied to internal affairs investigators about an off-duty arrest he never reported. During that arrest, he seized a cellphone that was never turned into the police department as evidence. Gray’s word has been used in 256 prosecutions since 2009, court records show.
Pulaski County Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson, whose office prosecutes cases in Little Rock, said the prosecutor’s office handles cases properly when it is aware an officer participating in a criminal proceeding has been disciplined.
“When this office is made aware of disciplinary actions by an officer (and) they’re going to testify as a witness,” he said, “we disclose that to the judge and let the judge make an independent finding as far as whether or not something is admissible pursuant to Brady.”
Failing to disclose officers’ past lies and bad acts can lead to wrongful convictions.
Since 1988, data from the National Registry of Exonerations shows 987 people have been convicted, then exonerated in cases that involved a combination of official misconduct by prosecutors and perjury or a false report by police and other witnesses. They spent an average of 12 years each behind bars.
The registry shows a rapid increase in exonerations in such cases. There were 112 in 2018 stemming from government misconduct in the prosecution – up from 48 in 2008.
Among those wrongly imprisoned was Debra Milke.
After returning from a trip to see Santa Claus at the Metrocenter mall in Phoenix, Milke’s 4-year-old son, Christopher, asked her if he could go back.
Debra Milke cries as she is embraced by Attorney Lori Voepel, right, during a news conference, March 24, 2015, Phoenix. Milke spoke out for the…Debra Milke cries as she is embraced by Attorney Lori Voepel, right, during a news conference, March 24, 2015, Phoenix. Milke spoke out for the first time after spending two decades on death row in the killing of her son. In 2013, Milke was freed after 25 years in prison.Matt York, AP
Milke sent Christopher back to the mall with a friend, James Styers, who drove him to a nearby ravine and shot him three times in the head.
Styers and another man were convicted of the murder, but so was Milke, on the word of a Phoenix detective, Armando Saldate Jr., who interrogated Milke and concluded she plotted the killing.
During Milke’s trial, evidence was withheld from her and her attorneys: Saldate’s police personnel file, which detailed eight cases in which indictments or convictions were thrown out because Saldate lied or otherwise violated a defendants’ rights.
In 2013, Milke was freed after 25 years in prison.
For Revat Vara, the cost of 11 years behind bars has been heavy.
Vara’s father died one week after his trial. His mother contracted leukemia while he was in prison, and he was unable to care for her. Two years after his release, he struggles to pick up his life.
“Once the structure of the family goes … pretty much everything starts falling apart,” he said.
Revat Vara, left, who spent 11 years in prison for a wrongful DWI conviction, speaks with his lawyer Maverick Ray, right, in Houston. Vara studied…Revat Vara, left, who spent 11 years in prison for a wrongful DWI conviction, speaks with his lawyer Maverick Ray, right, in Houston. Vara studied the law in prison as he worked with his legal team to win his release in 2017.Scott Dalton for USA TODAY
Vara said he grew up in a low-income community in Houston, and his formal education ended at eighth grade. He made his living before his arrest working odd jobs in a convenience store and at a plant.
Once he found himself behind bars, Vara said, he began contacting attorneys to ask for help with an appeal.
He couldn’t afford the legal help, but one lawyer sent him information about Lindsey’s history of misconduct – which was well known among local defense attorneys.
Vara researched how to file legal appeals on his own.
I knew I could never trust nobody again. The only way that I’m going to do this is I got to study the law. I’ve got to get in that law library and fight for my freedom.
“I knew I could never trust nobody again,” he said. “The only way that I’m going to do this is I got to study the law. I’ve got to get in that law library and fight for my freedom.”
Vara said he spent two hours every day in the library. He was allowed a double session on Thursdays and Saturdays. He convinced one corrections officer to spend her lunch in the library to give him an extra hour.
It worked. But Vara is still trying to put his life back to together on the outside.
Still living in Houston after his release from prison, Vara said he hopes to attend law school or start a nonprofit group to educate youth in his community about the law. He said he is not angry at the officer whose testimony put him in jail, but he is frustrated that the criminal justice system allowed the cop’s misconduct to go on in secret for years.
“It wasn’t Mr. Lindsey’s fault, it was the public’s fault,” Vara said. “Mr. Lindsey was allowed to do what he did because they allowed him to do it.”
The team behind this investigation
REPORTING AND ANALYSIS: Mark Nichols, Eric Litke, James Pilcher, Aaron Hegarty, Andrew Ford, Brett Kelman, John Kelly, Matt Wynn, Steve Reilly, Megan Cassidy, Ryan Martin, Jonathan Anderson, Andrew Wolfson, Bethany Bruner, Benjamin Lanka, Gabriella Novello, Mark Hannan
FROM THE INVISIBLE INSTITUTE: Sam Stecklow, Andrew Fan, Bocar Ba
EDITING: Chris Davis, John Kelly, Brad Heath
GRAPHICS AND ILLUSTRATIONS: Jim Sergent, Karl Gelles
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY: Phil Didion, Christopher Powers, David Hamlin, Robert Lindeman
DIGITAL PRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT: Spencer Holladay, Annette Meade, Craig Johnson, Ryan Marx, Chris Amico, Josh Miller
SOCIAL MEDIA, ENGAGEMENT AND PROMOTION: Anne Godlasky, Alia Dastagir, Felecia Wellington
Hunter Biden’s past business dealings at home and abroad are increasingly coming under scrutiny, as the former vice president’s son broke his silence in a nationally televised interview this morning — and 12 Democratic presidential candidates are preparing to debate Tuesday evening in Ohio.
Speaking to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Biden maintained he did nothing improper in serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company but acknowledged it was “poor judgment” on his part. In his first interview since his overseas business dealings came under scrutiny, Biden said he did not discuss the board seat with his father except for one “brief exchange” that was previously reported.
Although President Trump repeatedly has hammered Hunter Biden’s ties to China and Ukraine, the latest cloud of suspicion came as Republicans pointed to resurfaced 2008 reports in The New York Times and The American Spectator. The articles, written as Barack Obama and John McCain vied for the White House, found that Hunter Biden received consulting fees from the financial services company MBNA from 2001 to 2005 — while his father, then a senator, was pushing successfully for legislation that would make it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection.
The precise amount of the payments was unclear, but a company official once said Hunter Biden was receiving at least a $100,000 per year retainer, the Times reported. Hunter Biden, now 49, previously had been an executive at MBNA beginning in 1996, but the consulting fees came years after his departure from the company as a full-time employee.
Aides to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama at the time denied that any lobbying had occurred, and insisted the payments were proper.
However, that explanation was treated with skepticism. On Monday, the Trump campaign posted a contemporaneous interview in which an incredulous Tom Brokaw asked Joe Biden whether it was “inappropriate” for the then-senator to have his son “collecting money from this big credit card company while you were on the [Senate] floor protecting its interests.”
Hunter Biden’s previous work as an executive at MBNA from 1996 to 1998 also has raised what critics called red flags.
Rachel Mullen, a former senior personal banking officer at MBNA from 1994-2001 who later went into Republican politics, tweeted Monday that managers referred to the younger Biden as “Senator MBNA” after he was hired into a lucrative management-prep track right after he graduated from Yale Law School.
An MBNA source who previously worked at the company told Fox News on Monday that other employees heard Biden boasting that his salary was unusually high, even for the management-prep track — which was widely seen in the company as a way to groom and pamper well-connected executive candidates with powerful family members.
The source said Biden’s “Senator MBNA” nickname was not politically motivated, but rather reflected a widely held belief among managers — who did not work directly with Biden — that he essentially was engaged in lobbying.
In a January 2008 article entitled “The Senator from MBNA,” columnist Byron York recounted how then-MBNA vice chairman John Cochran paid “top dollar” for Biden’s home in February 1996, just prior to his Senate re-election bid, and that “MBNA gave Cochran a lot of money—$330,000—to help with ‘expenses’ related to the move.”
The $1.2M sale was a “pretty darned good deal for Biden,” York wrote, noting that “Cochran simply paid Biden’s full asking price” even though the “house needed quite a bit of work; contractors and their trucks descended on the house for months after the purchase.”
Asked how Cochran and Biden found each other for the sale, an MBNA spokesperson told York: “That’s a very personal question.”
Federal election records also showed top MBNA executives apparently made a “concerted” effort to donate to Biden’s campaign, York reported.
It remained unclear whether, and to what extent, the resurfaced accounts of possible misconduct by the Bidens could affect the 2020 presidential race. An ABC News interview with Hunter Biden is set to air beginning Tuesday, and the issue might come up during Tuesday night’s presidential primary debate.
Under intense scrutiny from Republicans, Hunter Biden announced this past Sunday he will step down from the board of directors of a Chinese-backed private equity firm at the end of the month as part of a pledge not to work on behalf of any foreign-owned companies should his father win the presidency. At the same time, the Bidens have denied wrongdoing.
Biden revealed his plan in an Internet post written by his attorney, George Mesires, who outlined a defense of the younger Biden’s work in Ukraine and China, which has emerged as one of Trump’s chief lines of attack against Hunter’s father.
“Hunter makes the following commitment: Under a Biden Administration, Hunter will readily comply with any and all guidelines or standards a President Biden may issue to address purported conflicts of interest, or the appearance of such conflicts, including any restrictions related to overseas business interests. In any event, Hunter will agree not to serve on boards of, or work on behalf of, foreign-owned companies,” Mesires wrote.
He continued: “He will continue to keep his father personally uninvolved in his business affairs, while availing himself as necessary and appropriate to the Office of the White House Counsel to help inform his application of the Biden Administration’s guidelines or standards to his business decision-making.”
From late 2013 through this month, Hunter Biden has served on the board of BHR (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company, which was “formed with the stated intent to invest Chinese capital outside of China.” Mesires insisted Biden’s initial role was that of an unpaid member of the board and that in October 2017, Biden “committed to invest approximately $420,000 USD to acquire a 10 percent equity position in BHR, which he still holds.”
Separately, Joe Biden has acknowledgedon camera that in spring 2016, when he was vice president and spearheading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire top prosecutor Viktor Shokin. At the time, Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings — where Hunter had a lucrative role on the board despite limited relevant expertise. Shokin also was widely accused of corruption.
CEYLANPINAR, Turkey — Kurdish-led fighters in Syria attempted on Tuesday to retake the strategic border town of Ras al-Ain from Turkish-led forces, as Kurdish and Syrian government troops sought to repel a Turkish incursion in northern Syria.
The Kurdish counteroffensive came as Syrian government troops were deployed inside the northern city of Manbij, a Syrian state broadcaster said on Tuesday. The broadcast showed what it said were residents of Manbij celebrating the arrival of government troops.
Heavy fire from machine guns could be heard to the south and southwest of Ras al-Ain and from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, which is less than a mile from the fighting. Turkish artillery pounded an eastern suburb of the Syrian settlement midmorning, raising clouds of smoke above low farmhouses and pistachio groves.
Where Turkish forces have moved into Kurdish-held areas
Turkish army AND
Ras al Ain
Syrian Army forces
deployed to a bridge.
Syrian Army forces
Turkish army AND
Ras al Ain
Syrian Army forces
deployed to a bridge.
Syrian Army forces
Turkish army AND
Ras al Ain
deployed to a bridge.
Syrian Army forces
Syrian Army forces
As of Tuesday, fighting in Ras al-Ain and other areas in northern Syria has forced at least 160,000 people from their homes, according to United Nations estimates. The Kurdish authorities put the figure at 270,000.
The battle highlighted the fluctuating nature of the Turkish incursion, which began last Wednesday after President Trump ordered the evacuation of American troops from the Turkish-Syrian border, opening the door for Turkish troops and their Syrian Arab proxies to enter Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria.
4 Big Questions About Syria’s Future
The surprise American withdrawal from parts of northern Syria reshuffled old alliances and touched off a new stage of the eight-year war.
Since the Kurdish authorities asked the government of President Bashar al-Assad for assistance, thousands of Syrian Army troops have flooded into northern Syria for the first time since the government lost control of the region several years ago.
But Syrian government troops have stayed clear of the border region near Ras al-Ain, where Kurdish troops fight on alone. Instead, government forces have deployed to other strategic positions, such as the western cities of Manbij, to help alleviate pressure on Kurdish fighters on the front line.
The last-minute alliance comes at great cost to the Kurdish authorities, who are effectively giving up self-rule.
Syrian Kurdish militias established a system of self-rule in northern Syria in 2012, when the chaos of the Syrian civil war gave them the chance to create a sliver of autonomous territory free of central government influence.
The fighters greatly expanded their territory after they partnered with an international military coalition, led by the United States, to push the Islamic State from the area.
After the Kurdish-led fighters captured ISIS territory, they assumed responsibility for its governance, eventually controlling roughly a quarter of the Syrian landmass. They have also been guarding thousands of ISIS fighters and their families, hundreds of whom fled a detention camp in Ras al-Ain after Turkish-led forces bombed the surrounding area.
The Kurds’ control of the land in Syria enraged Turkey, since the militia is an offshoot of a guerrilla group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. Turkey has long pressed the United States to abandon its alliance with Kurdish fighters so Turkish troops could enter Syria and force the Kurds from territory close to the border.
Washington rebuffed Turkey’s requests for several years, maintaining a de facto peacekeeping presence along the border near Ras al-Ain, the town at the center of the fighting on Friday. But that changed last week, when Mr. Trump made a sudden decision to withdraw troops — first from that particular area, and later from all of northern Syria.
Carlotta Gall reported from Ceylanpinar, and Patrick Kingsley from Istanbul.