Australian appeals Guantanamo conviction, N.J. man commits suicide in shopping mall

November 5, 2013
NEW JERSEY
Man commits suicide in shopping mall

A 20-year-old gunman fired multiple shots inside New Jersey’s largest shopping mall, trapping hundreds of customers and employees for hours as police scoured stores for the shooter, who was found dead early Tuesday of a self-inflicted wound, authorities said. There were no other injuries.

Investigators don’t believe the gunman, identified as Richard Shoop of Teaneck, N.J., intended to shoot anyone when he began firing at the ceiling and elsewhere at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus on Monday night shortly before the mall’s closing time, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.

Molinelli said Shoop was known to authorities and had had a problem with drugs, but he did not elaborate. He said Shoop left an ambiguous note with his family that suggested that “an end is coming.”

The suspect’s brother, Kevin Shoop, said he had no warning about what Richard Shoop intended to do.

— Associated Press

NATIONAL SECURITY
Australian recants Guantanamo plea

An Australian who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and ended up a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay sought Tuesday to walk back the plea deal that got him home, filing an appeal to overturn his terrorism conviction by a military court.

David Hicks was the first Guantanamo prisoner to be convicted of war crimes, pleading guilty in March 2007 to providing material support for terrorism. The deal got him out of the U.S. base in Cuba, with most of his seven-year sentence suspended, and he was freed by the end of that year.

His attorneys have now filed an appeal on his behalf, arguing that a ruling in another Guantanamo case that struck down the charge of providing material support for terrorism should now be applied to Hicks. They say his appeal was an involuntary act of desperation after more than five years in custody.

The appeal by Hicks is the latest fallout from an October 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the case of Salim Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden. The court ruled that material support for terrorism did not meet the criteria of a war crime that could be prosecuted by the military commission under the 2006 legislation that set up the special tribunal at Guantanamo.

— Associated Press

CALIFORNIA
90-day extension for expiring health plans

Health insurer Blue Shield of California said Tuesday it will delay policy cancellations for 113,000 customers who were due to lose coverage at the end of the year as a result of new requirements from President Obama’s health-care law.

Under pressure from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Blue Shield agreed to allow customers on the individual insurance market to receive a 90-day extension of their plans.

The California extensions come amid a national political storm over hundreds of thousands of Americans losing plans that do not comply with the requirements of the new health-care law.

The Blue Shield decision came after Jones threatened legal action against the company for providing only 90 days’ notice to policyholders instead of 180 days, the insurer said. The affected policyholders will be able to keep their plans through March.

— Reuters

Ex-official to plead guilty to bribery

A former California council member has agreed to plead guilty to a bribery charge after accepting $2.3 million in an undercover sting, authorities said Tuesday.

Ex-Moreno Valley City Councilman Marcelo Co, 64, will plead guilty to one count each of bribery and filing a false tax return, according to court records. He could face up to 13 years in prison and will make his first court appearance next month.

Authorities said Co promised an undercover FBI operative who posed as a real estate broker that he could control a voting majority of the five-member council to sway land-use decisions.

Records show that Co agreed to sell a 30-acre parcel he owned in Moreno Valley, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, to the undercover operative for $5.3 million. The land was appraised at $710,000, but Co said that after zoning laws were changed by the council, the parcel would increase in value by 500 percent, court documents say.

At a meeting in January, Co and the operative met and agreed that publicly filed documents would reflect a $3 million sales price for Co’s land. Authorities said Co then took $2.3 million in cash.

— Associated Press

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