2 killed, 1 injured in Texas mail bombings, police warn public not to open suspicious packages

An FBI agent exits her car after arriving at the scene of an explosion near north Galindo street. Police investigators are at the home where a 17-year-old boy was killed and a woman injured in a package bomb explosion in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 12, 2018. Sergio Flores / Reuters

Austin police have linked Monday morning’s mail bombing, that killed a teen boy and injured a woman, with another deadly explosion earlier this month. A third explosion left a 75-year-old woman with “life-threatening injuries.”

Police Chief Brian Manley has warned Austin residents no to open their mail, following dual mail bombings in the Texas city on Monday. The investigation is being coordinated with units from both the FBI and ATF.

“Similar to the other two incidents,the victim came outside and found a package, picked it up and the box detonated,” Chief Brian Manley told a press conference. In reference to speculation that the bombings were a spate of hate crimes, Manley added that investigators haven’t identified a “specific victimology or ideology based on current evidence… We are willing to investigate any avenue.”

https://www.pscp.tv/Austin_Police/1gqxvpApALRGB?autoplay&t=1

Based on evidence from all three scenes, the police believe the incidents are related but have yet to establish a motive or to identify the type of explosive used. “We are not calling it a serial bomber case,” the police chief confirmed. Two of the victims were African-American and the latest victim was Hispanic, so the department are not ruling out that these were hate crimes.

“All three incidents, up to this point, have occurred at residences. It is important that people be vigilant,” Manley added. He also confirmed that additional K9 explosives units have been brought in to the city to assist with the investigation.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 5.39.53 PM

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 5.40.45 PM

The first explosion took place just before noon, after a suspicious package was left on the doorstep of a single-family home. A 17-year-old boy was killed and a woman in her 40s was seriously injured.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 5.41.45 PM

Several hours later, a second reported explosion left a woman in her 70s with potentially life-threatening injuries. She was transported to Dell Seton Medical Center for emergency treatment.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 5.42.38 PM

A man was killed in another home explosion on March 2. Police are investigating the March case and the incident from Monday morning as homicides, but have yet to confirm whether the two are linked.

Rep Blake Farenthold Used Taxpayer Funds in $84K Sexual Harassment Settlement: Report

By Sam Dorman

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) reportedly used funds from Congress’s controversial Office of Compliance in an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement.

According to a report from Politico, Farenthold’s settlement came as part of a claim from Lauren Greene, his former communications director, that he sexually harassed her. Greene accused Farenthold of improperly firing her when she complained about Farenthold’s alleged inappropriate comments to her.

Greene claimed Farenthold drank excessively, among other things, and said he had sexual fantasies about her:

Greene claimed in the lawsuit that another Farenthold aide told her the lawmaker had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about Greene. She also claimed that Farenthold “regularly drank to excess” and told her in February 2014 that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”

While no information was released regarding a private settlement Greene reportedly reached with Farenthold, Politico obtained a joint statement in which the two said they would settle in order to save taxpayer money:

“[A]fter it became clear that further litigating this case would come at great expense to all involved — including the taxpayers — the parties engaged in mediation with a court-appointed mediator,” the statement read. “After extensive discussion and consideration, the parties jointly agreed to accept the solution proposed by the mediator.”

The statement added: “The parties believe that the mediator’s solution saves the parties, and the taxpayers, significant sums that would be expended in further discovery and/or trial.”

The statement also states that Farenthold “disagrees strongly” with his client’s allegations and “adamantly denies that he engaged in any wrongdoing.” It says the settlement included a confidentiality agreement that precludes Greene and Farenthold from discussing the case and “expressly provides that both parties deny all liability.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics investigated Greene’s claims but concluded “there is not substantial reason to believe that Representative Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against [ex-staffer Lauren Greene], or engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against [Greene] for opposing such treatment, in violation of House rules and federal law.”

Editor’s note: This story’s headline was updated to ensure clarity.

U.S. Rep. apologizes for graphic online photo…

 

Texas Congressman Joe Barton released a statement Wednesday apologizing for a graphic nude photo of him that circulated on social media earlier this week. He announced his re-election bid earlier this month. 

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” he said. “Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.” 

It is still unclear how the photo got onto social media, who put it there, or whether its posting would constitute revenge porn, which is illegal under Texas law.

Barton, who announced his re-election bid earlier this month, is navigating in a political environment charged with emerging stories of sexual misbehavior in politics, in business, and in the media. The photo, which appeared on an anonymous Twitter account, set off speculation within Texas GOP circles about his political future.

In a phone interview with The Texas Tribune on Tuesday, Barton said he was deliberating that.

“You’re as aware of what was posted as I am,” he said. “I am talking to a number of people, all of whom I have faith in and am deciding how to respond, quite frankly.”

A spokeswoman said Wednesday he had no plans to resign and had filed for re-election.

Texas passed legislation in 2015 making revenge porn a class A misdemeanor, defining the crime as posting sexual or nude images or videos of non-consenting adults. Images taken by consenting adults with a “reasonable expectation of privacy” constitute “revenge porn” when distributed without the subject’s consent, according to a blog post by Houston lawyer Brett Podolsky. Even threatening to distribute the material is illegal under state law.

Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, said too many details of Barton’s specific case were unknown to determine whether the leaked photo might constitute revenge porn under Texas law.

“What I can say is that the law was created in 2015 in part to kind of address situations like this, where an image that was taken during the course of a consensual relationship is later aired in public after that relationship has ended, usually ended badly,” Edmonds said. “That’s exactly the kind of situation that brought about the new law.”

Currently, there are no federal laws explicitly addressing revenge porn.

Barton, the former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce committee, joined the House in 1985 and is the longest-serving member of Congress from Texas.

If Barton were to choose not to run for re-election, it would be sure to set off a frantic race to replace him. His 6th district, stretching from the Dallas-Fort Worth area into East Texas, is heavily Republican territory, so the GOP primary would be the battlefield. The filing deadline for the 2018 primaries is Dec. 11.

Soon after the news broke Wednesday, state Sen. Konni Burton, a Fort Worth Republican whose district overlaps with Barton’s congressional district, batted down rumors that she might consider the seat.

“To supporters & donors who are asking me to make a congressional run & to those who are hearing the rumors, I thank you for thinking of me,” Burton tweeted. “However, I am totally committed to SD10!”

Jana Lynne Sanchez, a Democrat running for Barton’s seat, said in a statement that there was a “larger issue” at play than Barton’s personal life.

“Texans, just like all American people, are tired of poor behavior of elected officials distracting us from the real issues affecting us – the unbearable cost of healthcare, the poor and sliding quality of public education and the lack of good jobs for our high school graduates,” Sanchez said. “No matter who the Republican nominee is, I look forward to a civil and respectful campaign on the issues – not one sullied by personal attacks.”

Barton’s apology came near the end of what has already been a difficult year for him. As the manager of one of the congressional baseball teams, Barton and his two sons were on the field during practice in June when a gunman began firing. Barton recalled that his sons took cover during the shooting, one under an SUV and the other in the batting cage. He attributed his safety to the Capitol and Arlington police officers on duty that day.

Patrick Svitek and Matthew Choi contributed to this report.

 

Ted Cruz: Media Should ‘Ask Democrats the Very Same Questions About Sen. Menendez’ Being ‘Asked About Judge Moore’

by DR. SUSAN BERRY

While Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) acknowledged that the allegations made against Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama Judge Roy Moore are “deeply concerning,” he challenged members of the media on Monday evening to ask Democrats “the very same questions” about Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) that are being asked about Moore.

Capture

The Texas Tribune (subscription required) published the interview with Cruz, who reportedly said, “As it stands, I can’t urge the people of Alabama to support a campaign in the face of these charges without serious, persuasive demonstration that the charges are not true.”

Cruz, however, went on to say:

I would note that the media is understandably very eager to cover every aspect of this. For every reporter asking every Republican if Judge Moore should be elected, I would note for sake of consistency, those same reporters should ask every Democrat if Senator Bob Menendez – currently being prosecuted for multiple felonies including allegations that are deeply, deeply concerning – for fairness and consistency, reporters should ask Democrats the very same questions about Senator Menendez that are being asked about Judge Moore and in my view anyone who commits serious criminal conduct of type alleged should not be serving in the United States Senate:

Capture

Concerning the allegations against Moore, Cruz said:

 At this point, I have seen newspaper stories recounting their allegations. I don’t know if those allegations are true or false. You don’t know if they are true or false. That, ultimately, will be a choice for the voters of Alabama and perhaps for the criminal justice system. These allegations are very serious, and I believe the only way this campaign can remain viable is for Judge Moore to come forward with serious and persuasive responses that convince the people of Alabama that the charges are not true.
Cruz added that Moore is “entitled to present a defense,” but if the allegations are true, “he should drop out now, tonight, so that the people of Alabama are not given an untenable choice between a candidate under a serious cloud of potential criminal conduct or a liberal Democrat who would vote for policies inconsistent with what the people of Alabama want.”

GRAPHIC: Mexican Border State Businessmen Targeted for Cartel Executions, Extortion

by CARTEL CHRONICLES14 Nov 2017

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Tamaulipas — The cartel violence in the capital of this border state appears to have no end as rival organizations fight for control. Recent bloodshed led to five deaths and some close calls. Three of the people who died were gunmen extorting local businessmen when police arrived and triggered a shootout.

The majority of the violence occurring in capital can be attributed to the ongoing war between members of the Gulf Cartel and their allies with the Zetas Vieja Escuela against Cartel Del Noreste (CDN).

Authorities confirmed the shooting took place in the El Palmar neighborhood, an area in the city’s southeast, which is considered low-income. Police previously received a complaint from a businessman claiming that cartel members would extort him.

Law enforcement moved in when they learned that gunmen were going to the business to collect. As authorities arrived, the gunmen began a short firefight where leaving three cartel members killed with their weapons seized. Police did not release the names of the criminals but confirmed the existence of the extortion operation.

Soon after, authorities responded to a rural area near the highway that connects this city with Jaumave, where they found the body of a 25-year-old man shot to death. The victim was found facing down with his hands tied and appeared shot in the head.

In a separate violent incident, a group of gunmen riding a motorcycle shot at a man and managed to flee. The victim was walking along a sidewalk near the state offices of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) at the time. Emergency medical personnel rushed to the area and transported the man to a local hospital. Soon after that attack, police responded to the Vamos Tamaulipas neighborhood, where an unknown number of gunmen murdered 40-year-old Emilio Flores Gutierrez inside his convenience store.

The Vamos Tamaulipas neighborhood is considered an area of extreme poverty. The victim died after being shot in the chest. His wife claimed that she did not see the gunmen since she was inside their house.

The spike in violence is linked to the ongoing rivalry between the Gulf Cartel/Vieja Escuela Zeta versus the CDN for control of drug trafficking routes, kidnapping rings, and extortion schemes.

To date, neither local, state or federal authorities have been able to successfully stop the wave of violence that continues to envelop this city as drug cartels continue to operate.