As many as 26 people, including an unknown number of Americans, died during a more than 14-hour-long siege on a Somali hotel carried out by gunmen with ties to the global Islamicterrorist groupal-Qaeda, according to a report, and dozens more were reported injured.
Among those killed was a presidential candidate running in upcoming regional elections, current Jubbaland president Ahmed Mohamed said in a statement to Reuters.
Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, also were among those killed, Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to the Associated Press. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
“I’m absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people,” Omar Suleiman, a Texas-based imam who knew the victim, wrote on social media.
Nalayeh was born in Somalia in 1976, but spent most of her life in Canada, first in Alberta and then in Toronto. She founded Integration TV, an international web-based video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world.
Attackers first deployed a suicide bomb at the entrance gate to the Asasey Hotel in Somalia’s port city of Kismayo on Friday evening. At least four gunmen then stormed the hotel, which is frequented by politicians, patrons and lawmakers.
At least 14 hours passed before Somali troops shot dead all four attackers inside the hotel compound, Col. Abdiqadir Nur, a local police officer, told the Associated Press.
Reports on the death toll were conflicting. Initial reports said 12 people died in the attack. The president of Somalia’s Jubbaland region told Reuters on Saturday the death toll had risen to 26 people, including Americans, a Briton, Kenyans and Tanzanians.
The number of injured ranged from 40 to 56, according to reports.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack. Al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaeda, often uses car bombs to infiltrate heavily fortified targets like the hotel in Kismayo, which has been relatively quiet in recent years.
As if running with the bulls at the annual San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northeast Spain, wasn’t dangerous enough…
NFL player Josh Norman kicked up the risk level on Thursday morning when he decided to jump over the bulls too.
Check out video here:
The Washington cornerback shared photographs of the stunt on Instagram:
Some 29 people have been hospitalized at this year’s festival, which sees six bulls chase hundreds of runners through the city’s streets at 8 a.m. local time each day. San Francisco public defender Jaime Alvarez was gored in the neck last weekend while filming a video selfie.
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SAN FRANCISCO — Dozens of databases of people’s faces are being compiled without their knowledge by companies and researchers, with many of the images then being shared around the world, in what has become a sprawling ecosystem fueling the spread of facial recognition technology.
The databases are pulled together with images from social networks, photo websites, dating services like OkCupid and cameras placed in restaurants and on college quads. While there is no precise count of the data sets, privacy activists have pinpointed repositories that were built by Microsoft, Stanford University and others, with one holding more than 10 million images while another had more than two million.
The face compilations are being driven by the race to create leading-edge facial recognition systems. This technology learns how to identify people by analyzing as many digital pictures as possible using “neural networks,” which are complex mathematical systems that require vast amounts of data to build pattern recognition.
Tech giants like Facebook and Google have most likely amassed the largest face data sets, which they do not distribute, according to research papers. But other companies and universities have widely shared their image troves with researchers, governments and private enterprises in Switzerland, India, China, Australia and Singapore for training artificial intelligence, according to academics, activists and public papers.
Companies and labs have gathered facial images for more than a decade, and the databases are merely one layer to building facial recognition technology. But people often have no idea that their faces ended up in them. And while names are typically not attached to the photos, individuals can be recognized because each face is unique to a person.
A visualization of 2,000 of the identities included in the MS Celeb database from Microsoft.CreditOpen Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License, via Megapixels
Questions about the data sets are rising because the technologies that they have enabled are now being used in potentially invasive ways. Documents released last Sunday revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials employed facial recognition technology to scan motorists’ photos to identify undocumented immigrants. The F.B.I. also spent more than a decade using such systems to compare driver’s license and visa photos against the faces of suspected criminals, according to a Government Accountability Office report last month. On Wednesday, a congressional hearing tackled the government’s use of the technology.
There is no oversight of the data sets. Activists and others said they were angered by the possibility that people’s likenesses had been used to build ethically questionable technology and that the images could be misused. At least one face database created in the United States was shared with a company in China that has been linked to ethnic profiling of the country’s minority Uighur Muslims.
Over the past several weeks, some companies and universities, including Microsoft and Stanford, removed their face data sets from the internet because of privacy concerns. But given that the images were already so well distributed, they are most likely still being used in the United States and elsewhere, researchers and activists said.
“You come to see that these practices are intrusive, and you realize that these companies are not respectful of privacy,” said Liz O’Sullivan, who oversaw one of these databases at the artificial intelligence start-up Clarifai. She said she left the New York-based company in January to protest such practices.
“The more ubiquitous facial recognition becomes, the more exposed we all are to being part of the process,” said Liz O’Sullivan, a technologist who worked at the artificial intelligence start-up Clarifai.CreditNathan Bajar for The New York Times
“The more ubiquitous facial recognition becomes, the more exposed we all are to being part of the process,” she said.
Google, Facebook and Microsoft declined to comment.
One database, which dates to 2014, was put together by researchers at Stanford. It was called Brainwash, after a San Francisco cafe of the same name, where the researchers tapped into a camera. Over three days, the camera took more than 10,000 images, which went into the database, the researchers wrote in a 2015 paper. The paper did not address whether cafe patrons knew their images were being taken and used for research. (The cafe has closed.)
The Stanford researchers then shared Brainwash. According to research papers, it was used in China by academics associated with the National University of Defense Technology and Megvii, an artificial intelligence company that The New York Times previously reported has provided surveillance technology for monitoring Uighurs.
The Brainwash data set was removed from its original website last month after Adam Harvey, an activist in Germany who tracks the use of these repositories through a website called MegaPixels, drew attention to it. Links between Brainwash and papers describing work to build A.I. systems at the National University of Defense Technology in China have also been deleted, according to documentation from Mr. Harvey.
Stanford researchers who oversaw Brainwash did not respond to requests for comment. “As part of the research process, Stanford routinely makes research documentation and supporting materials available publicly,” a university official said. “Once research materials are made public, the university does not track their use nor did university officials.”
Duke University researchers also started a database in 2014 using eight cameras on campus to collect images, according to a 2016 paper published as part of the European Conference on Computer Vision. The cameras were denoted with signs, said Carlo Tomasi, the Duke computer science professor who helped create the database. The signs gave a number or email for people to opt out.
The Duke researchers ultimately gathered more than two million video frames with images of over 2,700 people, according to the paper. They also posted the data set, named Duke MTMC, online. It was later cited in myriad documents describing work to train A.I. in the United States, in China, in Japan, in Britain and elsewhere.
Duke University researchers started building a database in 2014 using eight cameras on campus to collect images.CreditOpen Data Commons Attribution License, via Megapixels
The Duke researchers ultimately gathered more than two million video frames with images of over 2,700 people.CreditOpen Data Commons Attribution License, via Megapixels
Dr. Tomasi said that his research group did not do face recognition and that the MTMC was unlikely to be useful for such technology because of poor angles and lighting.
“Our data was recorded to develop and test computer algorithms that analyze complex motion in video,” he said. “It happened to be people, but it could have been bicycles, cars, ants, fish, amoebas or elephants.”
At Microsoft, researchers have claimed on the company’s website to have created one of the biggest face data sets. The collection, called MS Celeb, spanned over 10 million images of more than 100,000 people.
MS Celeb was ostensibly a database of celebrities, whose images are considered fair game because they are public figures. But MS Celeb also brought in photos of privacy and security activists, academics and others, such as Shoshana Zuboff, the author of the book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” according to documentation from Mr. Harvey of the MegaPixels project. MS Celeb was distributed internationally, before being removed this spring after Mr. Harvey and others flagged it.
Kim Zetter, a cybersecurity journalist in San Francisco who has written for Wired and The Intercept, was one of the people who unknowingly became part of the Microsoft data set.
“We’re all just fodder for the development of these surveillance systems,” she said. “The idea that this would be shared with foreign governments and military is just egregious.”
Matt Zeiler, founder and chief executive of Clarifai, the A.I. start-up, said his company had built a face database with images from OkCupid, a dating site. He said Clarifai had access to OkCupid’s photos because some of the dating site’s founders invested in his company.
He added that he had signed a deal with a large social media company — he declined to disclose which — to use its images in training face recognition models. The social network’s terms of service allow for this kind of sharing, he said.
“There has to be some level of trust with tech companies like Clarifai to put powerful technology to good use, and get comfortable with that,” he said.
An OkCupid spokeswoman said Clarifai contacted the company in 2014 “about collaborating to determine if they could build unbiased A.I. and facial recognition technology” and that the dating site “did not enter into any commercial agreement then and have no relationship with them now.” She did not address whether Clarifai had gained access to OkCupid’s photos without its consent.
Clarifai used the images from OkCupid to build a service that could identify the age, sex and race of detected faces, Mr. Zeiler said. The start-up also began working on a tool to collect images from a website called Insecam — short for “insecure camera” — which taps into surveillance cameras in city centers and private spaces without authorization. Clarifai’s project was shut down last year after some employees protested and before any images were gathered, he said.
Mr. Zeiler said Clarifai would sell its facial recognition technology to foreign governments, military operations and police departments provided the circumstances were right. It did not make sense to place blanket restrictions on the sale of technology to entire countries, he added.
Ms. O’Sullivan, the former Clarifai technologist, has joined a civil rights and privacy group called the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. She is now part of a team of researchers building a tool that will let people check whether their image is part of the openly shared face databases.
“You are part of what made the system what it is,” she said.
<img src="https://a57.foxnews.com/a57.foxnews.com/static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2019/04/640/320/1862/1048/iStock-basset-hound.jpg?ve=1&tl=1?ve=1&tl=1" alt="This week, the FDA warned pet owners about the dangers of xylitol, a type of sugar alcohol that is sometimes found in sugar-free foods.”>
This week, the FDA warned pet owners about the dangers of xylitol, a type of sugar alcohol that is sometimes found in <a data-cke-saved-href=”https://www.livescience.com/39601-stevia-facts-safety.html” href=”https://www.livescience.com/39601-stevia-facts-safety.html” target=”_blank”>sugar-free foods</a>. (iStock)
You should always be careful about what you let your dog eat — case in point, a common sugar substitute found in everything from chewing gum to peanut butter can be deadly for man’s best friend, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This week, the FDA warned pet owners about the dangers of xylitol, a type of sugar alcohol that is sometimes found in sugar-free foods. Although the substance is safe for humans, it can be poisonous for dogs. Over the last several years, the agency has received reports of dogs being poisoned by eating foods that contain xylitol.
Many of the poisonings occurred when dogs ate sugar-free gum, the FDA said. But xylitol can also be found in other food or consumer products, including sugar-free candy, breath mints, baked goods, sugar-free (or “skinny”) ice cream, toothpaste, cough syrup, and some peanut and nut butters. [These 7 Foods Cause the Most Pet Deaths]
When dogs eat xylitol, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and causes a rapid release of insulin, the hormone that helps sugar enter cells. This insulin spike may cause dogs’ blood sugar levels to plummet to life-threatening levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia, the FDA said. In humans, xylitol isn’t dangerous, because it does not stimulate the release of insulin.
Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs — including vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking or standing, seizures, and coma — typically occur within 15 to 30 minutes of consumption, and deaths have occurred in as little as 1 hour, the FDA said.
To protect your dog, the FDA recommends checking food labels for xylitol, particularly if the product is advertised as sugar-free or low sugar, said Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian at the FDA. “If a product does contain xylitol, make sure your pet can’t get to it,” Hartogensis said in a statement.
This also applies to products you might not think of as food, such as toothpaste, which your dog might still attempt to eat.
“They had a great divorce,” the 67-year-old recently told Closer Weekly. “They had a very successful divorce. It was fantastic.”
“If their parents can’t get along and that happens, then kids should be so lucky to have a divorce like my mom and dad because they were kind,” Arnaz said. “They never said bad words about each other and they stayed friends until the day they died. It was a fantastic romance that got even more passionate and friendlier after they were not married to each other anymore.”
According to the magazine, Ball and Arnaz first met on the set of 1940’s “Too Many Girls” and were married that same year. However, the marriage proved to be rocky and Ball came close to filing for divorce in 1944. They eventually reconciled and their son Desi Arnaz Jr. was born a year and a half later.
The couple premiered their sitcom “I Love Lucy” in 1951 and it quickly became a sensation. Ball and Arnaz welcomed their daughter that same year.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz holding their two children, Desi Jr (left) and Lucie. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
“I Love Lucy” ran until 1957 and was followed up by “The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show” — later known as “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” from 1957 until 1960. Ball and Arnaz called it quits that same year.
“They just knew that it wasn’t working for them to stay married and that was sad,” Lucie explained. “But once they decided to stop, everything got much easier for everybody. We spent all of our weekends and summers with my dad and my mother for the rest of the time. But they were very pleasant with each other about visitation and who got to go with who and when. There was never a moment of animosity after that at all.”
Lucie pointed out a documentary she produced about her parents titled “Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie,” where viewers can see Ball and Arnaz frolicking in a swimming pool with her son Simon.
“The way they are with each other, the way they treat one another in the pool is so charming and you’d think they were the oldest married couple in Hollywood,” said Lucie. “They hadn’t been married to each other for 20-something years, but it’s charming…. There was such passion in that marriage that it could have gone either way. But it was a good thing that they were together; they created a lot of good stuff together.”
Arnaz remarried to Edith Mack Hirsch in 1963. The couple stayed together until her death in 1985. Arnaz died a year later in 1986 at age 69 from lung cancer.
Ball also found love again and married Gary Morton in 1961. The couple stayed together until her death in 1989 at age 77 from an aortic dissection.
Looking back, Lucie said she had no regrets growing up with two celebrity parents. In fact, she’s determined to keep the legacy of Ball and Arnaz’s work in Hollywood alive.
“… To me, it was just the way it was,” said Lucie. “And because I grew up with it from the moment of my birth, I don’t remember anything else. Neither does [my brother] Desi. This was what my dad and my mom did for a living. This is the work that they went away to go and do. And that’s all… We lived a pretty normal life away from all of that. If anything, it’s just that they were working parents like many kids have working parents today who don’t get home till late.”
Lucie also stressed to Closer Weekly that despite the ups and downs Ball had in her marriage to Arnaz, she never took their success with “I Love Lucy” for granted.
“She was always grateful for all the people who loved that show and who continued to love her until she died,” said Lucie. “She was very kind to her fans and always took time for them. She taught me that if they come up and bother you while you’re eating your dinner, don’t get crazy. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have anything. And my father was the same way: very generous, very appreciative, very grateful for every single bit of it. They never got tired of it.”
“My grandmother was a regular girl from upstate New York,” she recalled at the time. “She didn’t set out to be anyone’s icon. I remember her giving me these incredible bubble baths. She loved to wrap me up in towels and do my hair and makeup. She’d dress me in these silk pajamas and let me take a nap on her California king-size bed — it was just the most expansive, largest thing I’d ever seen in my life!”
“She would make a whole adventure happen for me,” continued Luckinbill-Conner. “Did I want to go out and swim? Did I want to play in the playhouse outside? Did I want to eat? It felt like my world and she was just living in it.”
Kate Luckinbill-Conner attends The Hollywood Museum hosts lobby tribute “Remembering Lucy” on April 24, 2019. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
Luckinbill-Conner insisted having Ball as a grandma was one of the best experiences she has ever had. She shared that even as a child, Ball shared no-nonsense life lessons on what it meant to be a successful woman.
“She wanted to be a mom, and she wanted to be a wife,” she said. “She also wanted to be an actress and a comedian, and she was determined to do it all. She was humble and she was a real person who just didn’t take no for an answer.”
Luckinbill-Conner isn’t the only one to have such fond memories of the “I Love Lucy” icon.
Lucille Ball as Lucy Esmeralda MacGillicuddy Ricardo circa 1955. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Ball’s good friend, Tom Watson, also told the outlet that one of his favorite memories was simply witnessing the love she had for her co-star and ex-husband, Desi Arnaz.
“They were the best thing for each other and the worst thing for each other,” said Watson. “They could push all the wrong buttons and all the right ones. It’s just, they were better off apart at the end. For whatever reason, the first marriage didn’t work out. [But] she didn’t throw him away. They became good friends because they had kids in common.”
“They recognized the fact, ‘OK, this is where we need to be now,’” he added. “But they never lost their affection for each other, ever.”
Are Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and her staff violating federal immigration law? If the information reported in The Washington Examiner is correct, then the answer could be “yes.”
The National Border Patrol Council’s El Paso chapter and Customs and Border Protection staff told the Examiner that Escobar has been sending members of her staff to the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez “to find migrants returned from El Paso, Texas, under the ‘remain in Mexico’ policy.”
According to the Examiner, members of Escobar’s staff are then “coaching them to pretend they cannot speak Spanish to exploit a loophole letting them … return to the U.S.”
Under the Migration Protection Protocols implemented by the Trump administration, non-Mexicans illegally crossing our Southwest border who claim asylum are to be returned to Mexico while their asylum claims are being evaluated.
However, this protocol does not apply if the asylum seeker does not speak Spanish, which is the apparent “loophole.”
If the Washington Examiner report is accurate, congressional staffers have either lied to immigration officials or coached migrants to lie to the officials in order to get the migrants into the U.S.
Is that against the law?
The Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)) says it is a felony if a person “encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such” entry is illegal. Furthermore, it is a violation to engage “in any conspiracy to commit” such acts or to aid or abet “the commission” of such acts.
Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison.
As the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in 1993 in U.S. v. Oloyede, the word “encourages” is “not limited to bringing in, transporting or concealing illegal aliens.” Rather, it also includes “actions taken to convince the illegal alien to come to this country or to stay in this country.”
That same court decision confirmed that a person violates the law if he or she “encourages” someone to make false statements on an immigration application.
In their individual capacities, members of Congress don’t have the power to pick and choose which laws they want to obey and which they want to ignore, like someone making selections in a cafeteria.
The law requires knowledge (or reckless disregard) of the fact that the migrant’s entry is illegal. If congressional staffers are specifically instructing migrants to lie about their language ability to take advantage of the loophole in the protocols, it seems obvious that the staffers know the entry of the migrants is illegal. Why else would the staffers instruct the migrants to lie about their fluency in Spanish?
Moreover, if the congressional staffers were instructed by their boss – Rep. Escobar – to engage in such behavior, then the “conspiracy” and “aiding and abetting” portions of the law would come into play.
A federal prosecutor would have to have pretty strong evidence before indicting a member of Congress – something that might be difficult to do unless a staffer decided to come clean and testify about what he or she was told to do.
By the way, Escobar’s office is allegedly also providing migrants with medical diagnoses intended to give them a pathway into the U.S.
The Examiner reports that one of Escobar’s staffers and an official of the local Catholic diocese brought in a migrant who they claimed had “cognitive disabilities.” The migrant was returned to Mexico after it was discovered that the diagnosis was not made by a medical professional, but by one of the congressional aides.
Another intriguing angle: The Border Patrol Council says that Escobar’s aides have been recording their south-of-the-border conversations with returned migrants. If federal investigators can get those recordings, they may be able to get a very quick answer as to whether the congresswoman’s aides have been coaching migrants to lie to immigration officials.
What should happen now?
An important principle of our legal system is that no one in this country – including members of Congress – is above the law. Members of Congress have the power to change laws and pass new ones – but only if they can get the support of a majority of their fellow lawmakers.
In their individual capacities, members of Congress don’t have the power to pick and choose which laws they want to obey and which they want to ignore, like someone making selections in a cafeteria.
Laws that are not enforced are meaningless. This includes the immigration laws, even though many Democrats in Congress and in state and local governments want to pretend our immigration laws are optional.
Like all of us, Escobar and members of her staff are entitled to the presumption of innocence. But it seems clear that the allegations in The Washington Examiner are serious enough to warrant a thorough investigation of the congresswoman and her staff.
A Seattle nursing assistant was arrested earlier this month for allegedly repeatedly raping a 50-year-old disabled woman in his care at an assisted living facility, according to reports.
Nshimiyiana O. Hamzat, 29, was charged with first-degree rape, second-degree rape and indecent liberties after he was caught by a hidden camera placed in the room by the victim’s family, Seattle’s KIRO-TV reported.
The family reported the assaults to police and installed the camera after the victim told them she was being abused by Hamzat.
“The camera captured the defendant sexually assaulting her twice a day, on two different days. The videos did not capture the totality of the sexual abuse the victim suffered at the hands of the defendant,” prosecutors wrote in charging documents, according to KIRO.
Hamzat denied any wrongdoing and even after he was shown an alleged rape on video he claimed he was doing patient care.
Police in Southern California released body camera footage after a 17-year-old driver was killed during a freeway traffic stop this week.
The teen’s vehicle had sped past Fullerton police Cpl. Scott Flynn, who attempted a traffic stop on an Anaheim freeway July 5, authorities say in the video. The driver then allegedly slammed into the officer’s patrol vehicle on purpose and made an abrupt U-turn facing the wrong way, Fullerton police public information officer Lt. Jon Radus said. Flynn requested backup.
The teen then exited her car and aimed what the officer perceived to be a firearm. It was later determined to be an exact replica of a Beretta 92 FS handgun.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
In the footage, the teen is heard pleading for help after Flynn shoots her in the chest. Flynn and a Good Samaritan hurry to help the girl while other officers arrive to help.
She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
“Please keep in mind this is an initial review, and our understanding of this incident could possibly change as additional evidence is collected, analyzed and reviewed,” Fullerton Police Chief Bob Dunn said of the footage.
Still of the incident from officer’s body camera (Fullerton Police )
The teen’s father called Anaheim police about 90 minutes after the incident to say she had taken the family’s rental car and may have wanted to harm herself.
Brittany Zamora was sentenced to 20 years on July 12, 2019, for molesting one of her students. She addressed the court before her sentencing. Maricopa County Superior Court
A former Arizona teacher has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, the lowest possible sentence allowed for her crime, after pleading guilty to molesting a 13-year-old student.
Ex-Goodyear teacher Brittany Zamora will be on probation for the rest of her life and must register as a sex offender. She will get credit for the 478 days she’s already served in prison.
“I am a good and genuine person who made a mistake and regret it deeply,” Zamora said in a Maricopa County Superior Court hearing Friday morning. “I lived my life respecting and trying to obey every law. I’m not a threat to society.”
She apologized to the victims, their families and her own family. She told Judge Sherry Stephens that her actions were out of character and said she’d like to attend counseling. She said she plans to earn a new degree in prison so she can embark on a new career when she’s released.
But outside the courtroom, Zamora in a statement read by her attorney blamed the child she sexually abused, and painted herself as the victim.
“This was not between a young child and Brittany — this was a teenager,” attorney Belen Olmeda Guerra said during a news conference following the hearing.
‘She used her position … to molest a child’
The sentencing marked the end of the sensational case of 28-year-old Zamora. The former Las Brisas Academy elementary teacher has drawn international attention since she was arrested more than a year ago for molesting one student and potentially grooming another.
The Zamora who sat before the judge was attentive, but appeared almost stone-faced during the emotional hearing. The front of her grown-out brown hair was weaved into a delicate braid. The ends were still the blonde shade she favored in her former life.
A few tears ran down her face while several poignant statements were made directly to her, and as her mother pleaded with the judge to give her daughter the shortest sentence possible.
Her face began to twist as the parents of the victims told her they hope she never gets to become a mother.
“Ms. Zamora lures these boys, earns their trust and then takes advantage of them purely to fill her own sexual desires,” the mother of the boy Zamora asked to stand watch while she had sex with another student said in court. “She used her position of power to molest a child. She’s a pedophile and no different than if a man were sitting in her place right now.”
Maricopa County Prosecutor Lacey Fisher said Zamora only stopped because she was caught.
“If a (parent) hadn’t discovered what was happening, there’s little doubt there would have been more victims in the defendant’s considerable wake,” Fisher said.
Zamora pleaded guilty to sexual conduct with a minor, attempted molestation of a minor and public sexual indecency in June as part of a plea deal. She was previously charged with 15 felony counts, including eight counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and a slew of other charges.
Stephens considered a number of mitigating factors, including Zamora’s lack of criminal history and the fact that screenings indicated she was unlikely to re-offend, before sentencing her to the minimum term.
She said aggravating circumstances included the fact that Zamora violated and abused her position of trust and tried to conceal the crimes.
“I find the circumstances of the offenses to be especially aggravating,” Stephens said.
The maximum sentence would have been 44 years.
‘Society should be protected from her’
Brittany Zamora was sentenced to 20 years on July 12, 2019, for molesting a student. A guardian of one of the victims addressed the court. Maricopa County Superior Court
Neither of the two victims were present in the courtroom Friday. An attorney for the boy who was molested read a statement from his mother.
“Before, he was an innocent child, and now she stole his innocence from him,” the victim impact statement submitted to the court read. “I hate Brittany Zamora for what she did to my son and family. We should not suffer for someone else’s sick pleasure, but we all are.”
The parents of both boys had expressed concern that Zamora would get a lighter sentence because she is a young and attractive woman. The parents of the boy who was abused asked for the maximum sentence.
“Now you’ll spend the rest of your youth and most of your adulthood in jail,” the boy’s father wrote in a statement his attorney read in court to Zamora. “My son will grow up, have a good life, get married and have children of his own. I will not allow you to interfere in my son’s life further. Good triumphs over evil.”
Zamora’s 20-year sentence was what her attorneys and family asked for. Her attorney highlighted Zamora’s lack of criminal record and a psycho-sexual evaluation that determined she had no sexual interest in children, but suffered from anxiety and depression.
Zamora’s mother Darlene Irwin told the court she thought it was actually the media and the public who were the monsters in this case. She said media coverage made Zamora seem more predatory than she was.
Former teacher Brittany Zamora was sentenced to 20 years on July 12, 2019, for molesting a student. Her mother addressed the court. Maricopa County Superior Court
“Please understand this is not a monster. This is a beautiful person with the kindest heart ever,” Irwin said, mentioning that Zamora had been prom queen.
Zamora will likely be in her late 40s when she would be released from prison.
It’s unlikely she could teach again. She already surrendered her teaching certificate. To get a new certificate in Arizona, she would have to submit to a criminal background check.
But, to the mother of the victim, that’s not enough. She wrote that Zamora’s plea deal was too lenient.
“She should never have children,” she said. “She should never be close to children, even in her own family. … As written, Brittany Zamora will not even be 50 when she leaves prison. I hold out few hopes that she will have truly reformed by then. I think she suffers from a mental sickness that will never go away. Society should be protected from her.”
The mother wrote that her son has struggled in the year since Zamora’s arrest. His life was uprooted and he changed schools in the months after. He’s experienced difficulty sleeping and headaches in addition to wandering thoughts, depressed feelings and anxiety.
“I am emotionally devastated and sick at heart and devastated by worry,” the mother wrote. “I fear and mourn for my son, whose childhood ended too soon.”
The mother also requested Zamora be ordered to cover the cost of her son’s counseling fees.
Zamora lawyer shifts blame to victim in press conference
Guerra held a news conference shortly after the sentencing. Zamora’s mother and a family friend stood silently behind her.
Brittany Zamora’s attorney Belen Olmedo Guerra delivers a statement following the sentencing. Zamora’s mother Darlene Irwin looks on. Brian Snyder, Arizona Republic
Guerra also accused Las Brisas Academy Principal Dickey of ignoring Zamora’s requests to move the victim to another class because the victim had “boundary issues” and was “obsessed” with his teacher.
The teen persistently inquired about Zamora’s identifying features, such as her birthmarks and moles, Guerra said. He also had multiple cell phones and social media accounts.
The family had Dickey’s cell phone number because of their son’s “many behavioral issues,” according to Guerra.
Guerra said she learned this new information from Dickey during a defense interview. It’s not clear why they accepted a plea deal if Zamora believed there was so much evidence in the case.
“I can truly say that I have been unfairly treated by the state of Arizona,” Zamora said in her statement. “It is shocking to me how others are so quick to judge after hearing accusations and only one side of the story. I feel like I was used as a publicity act to gain attention that was often driven by money and motivation from several parties.”
Guerra denied that she was blaming the 13-year-old and that she was calling a Zamora a victim when questioned about the accusations directly.
Russ Richelsoph, an attorney for the victim’s father and step-mother, told The Arizona Republicthey were shocked by the comments.
“To go into court and argue a client is remorseful during a sentencing hearing and to hold a press conference hours later blaming it on the victim indicates she’s not truly remorseful,” Richelsoph said.
“Her statement today just punctuates the fact that she has an attitude toward children that is dangerous and makes her a danger to society,” he added.
The family of the victim also filed a civil lawsuit against Zamora’s husband, Daniel, and Liberty Elementary School District. The lawsuit alleges Dickey was aware of rumors for more than a month before the sexual abuse was revealed.
The lawsuit against Liberty Elementary School District is ongoing.
The family’s lawsuit claims that three students in Zamora’s class reported inappropriate behavior to Dickey in written statements in early February 2018. Dickey later interviewed the students and lectured them on the dangers of rumors without referring the matter to police or alerting the boy’s parents.
Tropical Storm Barry is expected to reach hurricane strength before it makes landfall early Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
As of 2 a.m. ET Saturday, the storm was moving west-northwest at 3 miles per hour as it approached Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds at 65 mph, the weather service reported. The storm was about 70 miles south of Morgan City, La.
Meanwhile, forecasters were downgrading a predicted rise for the Mississippi River. They said Friday night that the river would rise about 2 feet lower than originally expected and most likely will not break over its levees.
The NWS said the river will likely rise as high as 17.1 feet by Monday in New Orleans. The levees protecting the city range from about 20 to 25 feet high. Forecasters had earlier thought the river would crest Saturday at about 19 feet in New Orleans.
Barry’s torrential rains are expected to test New Orleans’ post-Katrina flood defenses. The storm is forecast to dump 10 to 20 inches of rain on New Orleans through Sunday. Residents have not been advised to evacuate. Instead, officials said to stay indoors, have about three days’ worth of supply, and make sure neighborhood flood drains remain unblocked to allow water flow.
Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic flooding in New Orleans in 2005, and was blamed for more than 1,800 deaths in Louisiana and other states, by some estimates.
In Katrina’s aftermath, the Army Corps of Engineers began a multibillion-dollar hurricane-protection system that isn’t complete. The work included repairs and improvements to some 350 miles of levees and more than 70 pump stations that are used to remove floodwaters.
President Trump has already declared a state of emergency for Louisiana, authorizing federal disaster relief efforts. And about 10,000 people in Plaquemines Parish on Louisiana’s low-lying southeastern tip were ordered evacuated on Thursday.
New Orleans is particularly vulnerable to flooding because of its low elevation. Only about half the city is above sea level — a drop from what once was 100 percent, according to the Atlantic, which cited human activity as a primary reason for the drop.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that the storm’s impact, coupled with the already-high Mississippi River –which has been swelled by heavy rain and snowmelt upriver this spring — could be a dangerous combination.
“There are three ways that Louisiana can flood: storm surge, high rivers and rain,” Edwards said. “We’re going to have all three.”
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj, Madeline Farber and the Associated Press contributed to this report.