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Robert Nelson speaks about wrongful rape conviction and 30 year imprisonment
Lisa Benson Jun-30-2013 1116 0


Robert Nelson sat quietly at sister's table, admittedly nervous about talking to a reporter about the 30 years he spent in prison and the rape conviction that changed his life

"I've never done anything like this before," Nelson said.

Nelson spent more than half of his life in prison after being wrongly convicted of a 1983 rape. He was sentenced to 70 years for the crime, before being exonerated by DNA evidence earlier this month.

That freedom came with a lot of adjustments for Nelson, 49.

"One of the biggest things was learning how to use the phone. I never used a text phone. When I got locked up they didn't have text and cell phones," Nelson said

Decision making is also a skill that Nelson has to work on after spending so much time behind bars.

"It's hard to decide what you want when you walk into a store because you've got the freedom to choose. And inside you don't have the freedom to choose you got to get what every they give you," Nelson added.

On June 12, Nelson was released from prison after DNA testing exonerated him of the 1984 rape conviction. The victim identified Nelson as her attacker on a police line-up, but was wrong.

"I couldn't believe it, a jury found me guilty. There wasn't even no evidence to find me guilty, so I went on to prison and tried to fight it best I could," Nelson said.

Nelson's sister,Sea Dunnell joined his fight, contacting Laura O'Sullivan with the Midwest Innocence Project. Nelson was freed within a year of O'Sullivan taking the case.

"I knew it was being worked on; and they were going to set him free," Dunnell said.

Dunnell has had her Christmas tree up since last Christmas in anticipation of her brother coming home. She plans to keep it up as a constant reminder of the unyielding hope, faith, and love she has for her baby brother.



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The girls broke the glass after seeing smoke Tuesday, screaming as they leaped out of the building in Sandy Springs, about 15 miles north of Atlanta, according to video by 11 Alive.

A 17-year-old girl dove head-first out the window and a 6-year-old girl followed her, falling into the arms of two neighbors below, resident Thomas Lemon told My Fox Atlanta.

"They were frantic and they were crying and they were upset and you could actually see the fire was approaching them, going from one apartment to another apartment, getting closer and closer to them," witness Amber Vannoy told CBS46

Fire officials did not learn the girls' names, ages, relationship or current conditions because of patient confidentiality laws.

The girls were transported with lacerations to a children's hospital, where they were listed in stable condition Tuesday, Sanders said. They were the only people injured.

The girls were so disoriented that they could not remember their mother's number, neighbors said.

The girls did the "smart thing" by exiting through the window instead of trekking through the smoke, Sanders said.

"That was the only way the girls could get out," Sanders said. "To predict how people react, no matter if you're a teenager or an adult, is impossible when they feel their lives have been threatened."

A resident accidentally started the fire about 1:20 p.m. by discarding a burning cigarette in a box filled with paper in the back of the building, Sanders said.

The flames soon spread to the roof, burning it off.

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Sanders said he did not expect to file charges against the resident who started the fire.

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DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was found guilty of attempted extortion and perjury Wednesday, and several deputies immediately escorted him from the courtroom into custody.

A jury was unanimous in convicting Ellis on the four felony charges related to allegations that he strong-armed county contractors into contributing to his 2012 re-election campaign. Ellis was found not guilty on five other charges.

Ellis and his wife didn’t move or show emotion as the jury foreman read the verdicts after deliberating about 27 hours over six days.

Ellis will be sentenced July 8. The maximum sentence for the three perjury counts is 10 years imprisonment, and the attempt to commit theft by extortion count carries a five-year maximum sentence.

The conviction brought an end to Ellis’ political career, where he had reached the pinnacle of leadership in the 700,000-person county in 2008 and then convincingly won a second term four years later.

Ellis, his attorneys and his family didn’t comment. Neither did District Attorney Robert James, who is bound by a gag order until after sentencing.

Walton, who agreed to wear a wire so he would not be charged with lying to a special purpose grand jury when he was asked if he got gifts or services from county vendors.

The extortion count involved accusations that Ellis shook down Power and Energy Services, which serviced generators for the county. Jurors heard a recording in which Ellis solicited contributions from Brandon Cummings, the president of the company.

“If I’ve got to sit down and explain to you why you would want to support this county government … ” Ellis said on the recording. “You obviously have an interest in DeKalb County … I’m not asking you to make a charitable contribution. I’m asking you to make a campaign contribution.”

The three perjury charges dealt with Ellis’ testimony to a special grand jury, when he said under oath that he doesn’t get involved in county contracting.

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Three people in Baltimore, including a teenage boy, have been indicted for murder, rape, arson and gang charges in the brutal death of a high school girl, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Adonay Dixon, 23, and John Childs, 20, were the first two suspects charged for the murder of 16-year-old Arnesha Bowers, the Baltimore Sun reported. They were accused of breaking into Bowers' home, sexually assaulting her, killing her, and stealing $40 in cash, an iPad and a laptop.

Days later, 14-year-old Raeshawn Rivers, who knew Bowers, was arrested and charged as an adult.

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Corrupt ex-state Sen. Malcolm Smith was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison for attempting to bribe his way onto New York City's Republican mayoral ballot in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas imposed the sentence in White Plains Federal Court on the once-powerful Queens pol, who was stone-faced throughout the proceeding.

Karas also sentenced former Queens GOP leader Vincent Tabone to 3 1/2 years for his role in the convoluted $200,000 scheme to buy Smith’s way into City Hall.

“Bribes and kickbacks should never play a role in the selection of candidates for public office,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

“By attempting to buy and sell a spot on New York City’s mayoral ballot, Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone corrupted one of the most fundamental tenets of the democratic process, that candidates cannot bribe their way onto a ballot.”

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Prosecutors said Tabone accepted $20,000 during a boozy dinner at Sparks Steak House in Midtown on Smith’s behalf from the undercover FBI agent. He also attempted to persuade a witness in the case to not testify against him.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions. Politics can be a noble and worthy endeavor, but my conduct was not. It was dead wrong. If you do what I did, you'll be where I am,” Tabone said.

Former City Councilman Dan Halloran, who attempted to negotiate the bribes for Smith’s spot on the ballot, has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Shargel said Smith would appeal the sentence. He must surrender on Sept. 21 and asked to be locked up at Otisville Correctional Facility.

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One of New York’s own, a teen who attended school on the Upper West Side, was one of the two big winners Monday night at the seventh annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards on Broadway .

Marla Louissaint, 17, who just graduated from the Beacon School, was named best actress after performing a rousing solo of “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple.”

Marla told the Daily News she will study engineering at Fordham University in the fall.

Anthony Skillman, 18, who just graduated from Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif., was named best actor.

The two top awards, nicknamed the Jimmys after theater owner James M. Nederlander, include $10,000 scholarships.

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A kitchen employee at a North Carolina jail is accused of having sex with an inmate who worked with her in the mess hall and helping the convicted murderer escape for a day, police said.

Kendra Lynette Miller, 33, allegedly assisted in the Saturday breakout of Kristopher McNeil, 29, from a minimum-security facility at Brown Creek Correctional Institution, roughly 45 miles east of Charlotte, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

McNeil was found Sunday night, NBC News reported.

Polkton police charged Miller with harboring a fugitive and aiding and abetting a fugitive, along with having sex with an inmate and supplying a cell phone, Anson County Jail records show.

McNeil, a Winston-Salem man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2009, apparently climbed over the prison’s fence on Saturday, prison officials said. Authorities found him around 11 p.m. Sunday after getting spotted near the border of Davidson and Forsyth counties, according to NBC.

McNeil, who was scheduled to be released in less than three years, was initially charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 death of an accused cocaine trafficker, the Winston-Salem Journal reported at the time. He admitted to the second-degree murder rap and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in a plea deal.

The prisoner and Miller apparently worked together in the cafeteria, where she had been an employee since December, state prisons spokeswoman Pamela Walker said. Miller is incarcerated in Anson County Jail on a $500,000 bond, and she hasn’t hired a lawyer, a jail official said.

The search for the missing North Carolina inmate crystallized on Sunday just as authorities located and shot New York fugitive David Sweat in the upstate town of Constable. Sweat, 35, and Richard Matt, 49, allegedly escaped from the nearby Clinton Correctional Facility with the help of two prison workers earlier this month.

Kristopher McNeil, 29, allegedly climbed the fence at his North Carolina minimum-security prison on Saturday with the help of a woman he's believed to have worked with in the prison kitchen.
Law enforcement officers fatally shot Matt on Friday and critically wounded Sweat on Sunday afternoon.

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Cameron Joseph Jun-29-2015 184 0
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take another look at a major affirmative action case that could further constrict public universities' use of race in admissions.

The court announced that it would consider whether the University of Texas' admissions process is constitutional, in a case brought by a white Texan woman who was rejected from the system's flagship school in Austin.

The Supreme Court heard the case in 2012 but sent it back to lower courts unchanged. It has now resurfaced.

The University of Texas at Austin gives automatic admission to any Texan students in the top 10% of their high school classes, and uses race as one factor for all other applicants as a way to increase diversity on campus.

Abigail Fisher, who is white and wasn't a top high school student, sued to strike down what her lawyers called the school's "unjustified use of race."

The Supreme Court has previously limited how much public universities can factor in race in school applications, ruling years ago that they couldn't use hard quotas.

The court will take up the case in its next session.

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Larry Mcshane Jun-28-2015 121 0
Mourners packed the Emanuel AME Church twice Saturday to celebrate the lives of three parishioners killed in the historic house of worship just 10 wrenching days before.

The sad services began with an overflow crowd first turning out for revered parishioner and librarian Cynthia Hurd, 54, followed a few hours later by a single service for Susie Jackson and her nephew Tywanza Sanders.

The trio, along with six other members of a Bible study group, died at the hands of a racist white gunman during Bible study at the church known as “Mother Emanuel.”

Hurd, a local librarian for 31 years, was fondly recalled for her constant kindness and generosity. All 16 of the county’s library branches remained closed Saturday so their staffs could attend her service.

Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, attending funerals for a third straight day, expressed his hope that the mass killing would lead to something positive.

The June 17 attack “shook an America that didn’t want to believe this kind of hate could still exist,” Riley told the full house of mourners.

“And the manner of her tragic death, leading to our country’s revulsion, her death will lead to change — and Cynthia Hurd will be helping millions.”

For Hurd, the jam-packed funeral service was a return to her roots: She and her siblings attended “Mother Emanuel” while growing up in Charleston.

The church was filled to capacity for both funerals, with the services shown via live streaming at the nearby Second Presbyterian Church for the scores who were turned away.

Many of those who turned out to remember Hurd stuck around for the next service, which was delayed for an hour by the volume of people trying to squeeze inside.

Mourners filed past the open caskets holding the oldest and youngest victims of the attack — the 87-year-old Jackson and 26-year-old Sanders.

Tywanza’s mother Felicia survived the carnage by playing dead, but was left to watch as her son and his great aunt were executed.

The church was filled to capacity for both funerals, with the services shown via live streaming at the nearby Second Presbyterian Church for the scores who were turned away.

The large number of attendees “is important to the family,” said relative Sonian Meggett. “We do appreciate it.”

By the afternoon, mourners arrived beneath black skies and rain.

The attendees included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott. Funerals for the three remaining victims were set for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

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