Two ex-Buckeyes indicted

COLUMBUS — A grand jury on Friday indicted two former Ohio State football players on charges of rape and kidnapping after authorities said they held a woman against her will and raped her earlier this month. Defensive backs Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint were kicked off the team last week after their Feb. 12 arrest. The indictment was announced by Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who said each man faces 33 years in prison and registration as a sex offender if convicted. Both previously pleaded not guilty to preliminary charges. Their next hearing is March 6. Attorneys for both say their clients are innocent. Riep spoke with officers without a lawyer and passed a polygraph examination, his lawyer, Dan Sabol, said in a statement Friday. “In a contest of credibility, Amir has done everything possible to prove his innocence,” Sabol said, adding: “If there is a silver lining to this indictment, it is that he will have the opportunity to prove his innocence in a court of law.” Sam Shamansky, representing Wint, noted last week that it took police seven days to arrest his client. “This case is so full of reasonable doubt it’s beyond belief. The reality is, my kid’s innocent,” Shamansky said on Feb. 13. He promised another statement Friday. The woman told police that on Feb. 4 she started having consensual sex with Riep before Wint came into the room and both forced her into sex. After several minutes, they stopped and Riep told the woman that she needed to say what happened was “consensual on a video recording while laughing at her,” according to police. Riep then told the woman she needed to shower before he drove her back to her home. Officials said in court that police have the video recording.

Russia back to stirring chaos

WASHINGTON — Just weeks into this year’s election cycle, Russia already is actively interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign in hopes of reelecting President Donald Trump, and is also trying to help the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, intelligence officials have concluded. The Russian efforts are aimed at undermining public confidence in the integrity of U.S. elections and stirring general chaos in American politics, intelligence experts say. Lawmakers were told in a classified briefing last week that Russia is taking steps that would help Trump, according to officials familiar with the briefing. And Sanders acknowledged Friday that he was briefed l ast month by U.S. officials about Russian efforts to boost his candidacy. The revelations demonstrate that the specter of foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election will almost certainly be a cloud over the campaign, and possibly even the final results if the contest is close. Democrats have consistently criticized Trump for not doing more to deter the Russians and others, and now they have fresh evidence to support their concerns. There were some conflicting accounts about what the briefers had revealed about Russia’s intentions. One intelligence official said that members were not told in the briefing that Russia was working to directly aid Trump. But advancing Sanders’ candidacy could be seen as beneficial to Trump’s reelection prospects.

Three can be released from NDAs

WASHINGTON — Mike Bloomberg said Friday he’d free three women from confidentiality agreements that bar them from speaking publicly about sexual harassment or discrimination suits filed against him over the last three decades. The billionaire former mayor of New York also said his company, Bloomberg LP, will no longer use such agreements “to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward.” His remarks come after days of intense scrutiny over the treatment of women at the company he’s led for three decades, and amid pressure from Democratic presidential rival Elizabeth Warren to allow the women to share their claims publicly. Warren hammered Bloomberg over the issue in the recent debate, his first time facing his rivals. The announcement Friday highlights his efforts to remove a vulnerability ahead of the next debate, on Tuesday in South Carolina, and refocus his campaign ahead of March 3, known as Super Tuesday, when he will be on the ballot for for the first time. Bloomberg didn’t automatically revoke the agreements, but told the women to contact the company if they would like to be released. The three agreements he’s willing to open up relate specifically to comments he’s alleged to have made. His company reportedly faced nearly 40 lawsuits involving 65 plaintiffs between 1996 and 2016, though it’s unclear how many relate to sexual harassment or discrimination. Bloomberg said in a statement he’d done “a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days.”

UM told of abuse decades ago

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — University of Michigan officials were warned more than four decades ago that one of its doctors was fondling patients during medical exams, but he continued working there despite a demotion and went on to allegedly abuse again as a physician with the school’s athletic department, records obtained Friday by The Associated Press show. In 1980, the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson was pressed to step down as head of the University Health Service amid such concerns, according to a statement that his former supervisor gave to a campus detective who had started investigating the physician more than a year ago following a complaint from a former university wrestler. When the detective told Tom Easthope, a former university administrator who oversaw Anderson’s department, that he was investigating “inappropriate behavior” by Anderson, Easthope replied, “I bet there are over 100 people that could be on that list,” according to the records. Easthope told the detective that he had confronted Anderson about “fooling around in the exam rooms with the boy patients” and told the doctor, “You gotta go,” based on his statement. He said the doctor didn’t deny the allegations against him. By 1980, at least two students had made complaints to Michigan officials about Anderson inappropriately touching them, according to interviews and records. When the detective informed Easthope that Anderson had continued working on campus, including with Michigan’s football program, up until 2003, Easthope became “visibly shaken” and added that “he was sure that he had left the university.”

US, Taliban truce takes effect

ISLAMABAD — A temporary truce between the United States and the Taliban took effect on Friday, setting the stage for the two sides to sign a peace deal next week aimed at ending 18 years of war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home. If successfully implemented, the weeklong “reduction in violence” agreement, which came into force at midnight Friday local time (1930 GMT, 2:30 p.m. EST), will be followed by the signing of the peace accord on Feb. 29, wrapping up America’s longest-running conflict and fulfilling one of President Donald Trump’s main campaign promises. Friday’s announcement of an agreement on terms for a peace deal follows months of negotiations between the two sides that have broken down before. Yet both parties have signaled a desire to halt the fighting that began with the U.S. invasion after the September 11, 2001, attacks by Osama bin Laden’s Afghanistan-based al-Qaida network. Should the truce stand, the U.S.-Taliban deal would be followed within 10 days by the start of all-Afghan peace talks that could result in the formation of a new government in Kabul, a pledge from the Taliban not to allow terrorist groups to operate in the country, and the phased withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops over 18 months. The plan is a gamble for Trump, who retweeted several news accounts of the agreement. If it’s successful, he will be able to claim to have taken a first step toward meeting his 2016 campaign pledge to bring American troops home. But if it fails, Trump could be painted by his Democratic adversaries in an election year as being na”ve and willing to sacrifice the security of U.S. soldiers and American interests for the sake of political expediency.

Mixed about nomination process

WASHINGTON — Democratic voters feel generally positive about all of their top candidates running for president, but they have only moderate confidence that their party’s nomination process is fair, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. U.S. voters from across the political spectrum have mixed confidence in the fairness of either party’s system for picking a candidate, but Democrats are especially likely to have doubts about their own party’s process. Among Democratic voters, 41% say they have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in the Democratic Party’s nomination process, while 34% have moderate confidence and 25% have little to no confidence. Among Republicans, meanwhile, 61% say they have high confidence in their party’s process, and just 13% have low confidence. President Donald Trump has only nominal opposition in the GOP nomination process, and several state Republican parties have even canceled holding a primary. For Democrats, the results reveal early signs of fallout from what’s shaping into a contentious and divisive primary, and sharpen focus on the prospect that the nominee may be chosen in a messy vote at a brokered convention. The anxieties have been exacerbated by a breakdown in the vote count in the kickoff Iowa caucus, an outcome Nevada officials are working to avoid in their caucus Saturday. Julianne Morgan, 29, of Dayton, Ohio, said her confidence in the Democratic Party’s process was undercut earlier this month when Democrats delayed tabulating the results of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses because of problems with a buggy mobile app.

Picketing, pigeons, politics

LAS VEGAS — Candidates have hustled past tourists and slot machines to ask housekeepers and cooks for their votes in the back of flashy casinos. They’ve made their pitches over plates of tamales, tacos and soul food. They’ve walked a picket line in the street with union workers. And then, with unsurprising showmanship, there was that flock of pigeons with tiny MAGA hats. If Nevada has one job in the Democratic primary, it’s to offer something different. And in many ways it has delivered. As the presidential race turned to the state this week, gone was the earnestness of Iowa and tradition of New Hampshire and in its place was racial diversity, a new unpredictability and the muscle of urban, union politics. “Nevada is truly a state that represents the rest of the country,” former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, famous for his Nevada cheerleading and early primary state trash talk. “It’s not like Iowa where you have no diversity … New Hampshire is a state that has no diversity.” It’s far from clear that Nevada’s more representative population — it is 29% Latino, 10% black, 9% Asian American and Pacific Islander and 49% white — will result in a dramatic scramble of the pecking order set by Iowa and New Hampshire. In the past, Nevada Democrats have twice been a tiebreaker in two-person contests. In this crowded field of candidates, the state’s input isn’t expected to reorder the race. Still, the Silver State campaign has delivered on some of its promises to change it up on the campaign trail, offering up scenes that are hard to imagine happening elsewhere.

Accused of conspiring with cartel

MIAMI — A once-standout U.S. federal narcotics agent known for spending lavishly on luxury cars and Tiffany jewelry has been arrested on charges of conspiring to launder money with the same Colombian drug cartel he was supposed to be fighting. Jose Irizarry and his wife were arrested Friday at their home near San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of a 19-count federal indictment that accused the 46-year-old Irizarry of “secretly using his position and his special access to information” to divert millions in drug proceeds from control of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s a black eye for the DEA to have one of its own engaged in such a high level of corruption,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former Chief of International Operations. “He jeopardized investigations. He jeopardized other agents and he jeopardized informants.” Federal prosecutors in Tampa, Florida, allege the conspiracy not only enriched Irizarry but benefited two unindicted co-conspirators, neither of whom is named in the indictment. One was employed as a Colombian public official while the other was described as the head of a drug trafficking and money laundering organization who became the godfather to the Irizarry couple’s children in 2015, when the DEA agent was posted to the Colombian resort city of Cartagena at the time. When The Associated Press revealed the scale of Irizarry’s alleged wrongdoing last year, it sent shockwaves through the DEA, where his ostentatious habits and tales of raucous yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes were legendary among agents.

Newest front in virus outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — Cases of a new virus swelled Friday in South Korea, making the country the newest front in a widening global outbreak centered in China and now reverberating elsewhere. South Korea said two people have died and 204 have been infected with the virus, quadruple the number of cases it had two days earlier. Schools were shuttered Friday, churches told worshipers to stay away and some mass gatherings were banned. The multiplying caseload in South Korea showed the ease with which the illness can spread. Initial infections were linked to China, but new cases in South Korea and Iran — where there have been four deaths — don’t show a clear connection to travel there. In an emerging cluster of illnesses in northern Italy, the first to fall ill met with someone who had returned from China on Jan. 21 without experiencing any symptoms of the new virus, health authorities said. The World Health Organization warned that clusters not directly linked to travel, such as the ones in South Korea and Iran, suggest that time may be running out to contain the outbreak. “The window of opportunity is still there. But our window of opportunity is narrowing,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We need to act quickly before it closes completely.”

New approach for infrastructure

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would use tax incentives to spur private investment in public works projects. He has so far failed to persuade Congress to pass anything like that. In another election year, Trump has outlined a new $1 trillion plan for spending on roads, rails, water systems and other infrastructure. This time, the president is proposing to rely fully on federal spending. That fundamental change from his first plan drew praise from some state transportation officials and industry groups, even though Trump doesn’t spell out how to pay for it all. Since outlining his budget proposal last week, Trump has done little to promote his new infrastructure plan. A politically divided Congress has no obligation to consider it. In fact, Trump’s prior infrastructure proposals all stalled, even when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. Some Republicans already are lowering expectations.

Penn State, Paternos, settle

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Penn State and the family of the late head football coach Joe Paterno announced Friday they have resolved “outstanding issues” that had divided them, eight years after he was fired following Jerry Sandusky’s child molestation arrest. The university issued a statement, read by the chairman of the university board at a meeting, that it had agreed to pay “certain of the Paterno family’s expenses” and wished to move forward. The amount was not disclosed. “It is time to come together and devote our energies solely to education, research and the advancement of one of America’s great institutions of higher learning,” Paterno’s widow, Sue Paterno, said in a separate statement. The deal ends a lawsuit against the university by the Paternos’ son Jay Paterno, who is currently a member of the Penn State board. Jay Paterno had claimed the university-commissioned report into the scandal had unfairly tarnished him and made him unable to find work as a football coach. In a phone interview, Jay Paterno called the agreement “a relief” and “a long time coming.”­

Case tied to doomsday beliefs

HONOLULU — Family members used to describe Lori Vallow as an attentive mother who had her kids’ best interests at heart. But that was before she reportedly declared herself a god sent to prepare the world for an imminent apocalypse. Before three untimely deaths of people surrounding her. Before her children went missing. Seven-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and his 17-year-old sister, Tylee Ryan, haven’t been seen since September. After fleeing from Idaho to Hawaii during an investigation, Vallow, 46, was arrested Thursday on charges of felony child abandonment — a milestone in a case that spans several states and is filled with bizarre twists. “If somebody two years ago would have said this is what’s going to happen with Lori, I never would have believed it,” JJ’s grandfather, Larry Woodcock, said last month when he announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the children. “I don’t know what caused this conversion. You don’t go from being mother of the year, mother of a special needs child, to being a person who won’t even tell you where she is at, where he is, where they are at.” “There’s a timeline change with Lori, and it started a few years ago,” he said.


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