Date: September 28, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: Two men were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday for their roles in a Mexican drug gang that dissolved victims' bodies in acid.
Jose Olivera, 38, got five consecutive life terms and David Valencia, 42, got two consecutive life terms for charges including murder and kidnapping. They were the first defendants to go on trial in a case that prosecutors say is one of the worst examples of Mexican drug violence spilling across the border into the United States.
A jury convicted both men in May of strangling two victims after holding them for nearly three weeks at a San Diego home in 2007, then dissolving their corpses in acid. Olivera was convicted of murdering another man whose body was left in a car trunk.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John Einhorn said the men deserved maximum sentences for crimes that were "reprehensible, antisocial and damaging to the fabric of the San Diego community" as anything he has witnessed in 18 years on the bench.
"If ever there were two individuals that deserved absolutely no breaks, it's the two before this court today," the judge said.
Warring drug cartels have inflicted staggering violence on Mexican cities along the U.S. border, but San Diego and other U.S. border cities have generally been spared, boasting some of the lowest murder rates in the United States.
The kidnappings and murders pinned to "Los Palillos" -- or "The Toothpicks" in English -- were highly unusual for their brutality. Prosecutors say abductors masqueraded in police uniforms, kidnapping rivals or wealthy people for ransoms and disposing their bodies in trunks, along roadsides or in acid.
The group operated in the San Diego area from 2004 to 2007, according to prosecutors. It was disbanded when the FBI rescued a man who was kidnapped after being lured on a date by a woman who feigned she was attracted to him and the victim's family paid $193,000 in ransom money.
Authorities said they group defected in 2002 from the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix cartel, which gained notoriety during the 1990s for dissolving the bodies of rivals in slow-burning vats of acid.
Olivera and Valencia were the first of 17 defendants to go to trial, charged with killing two men even after the family of one victim paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom. A trial is scheduled to begin in November for Jorge Lopez, 33, and Juan Estrada, 40, whom authorities identify as ringleaders.
The trial against the alleged ringleaders is expected to last nine months to a year, said Mark Amador, a deputy district attorney. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against both men, who are already serving life sentences for other crimes.
More than 80 witnesses testified during the three-month trial against Olivera and Valencia. Defense attorneys argued key prosecution witnesses were granted leniency for testifying and were not credible.
Neither man said anything at Friday's hearing beyond waiving rights to appear at restitution hearings for the victims.
Valencia chatted with his attorney as the judge rendered the sentences
and smiled occasionally during the hearing. Olivera occasionally glanced toward
the floor as the sentences were read and showed no emotion (Fox News, 2012).
Officer Charged With Negligence After Conscript Suffers Acid Burns
Date: October 9, 2012
Source: Moscow Times
Abstract: Military investigators opened a criminal case Tuesday against an officer who told a conscript who suffered severe acid burns on his watch to go for a jog to numb the pain instead of calling for urgent medical assistance.
Investigators said in a statement on their website that the officer, identified as Senior Lieutenant Alexander Khvostov, would be charged with negligence, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The charges relate to a Sept. 27 incident in which soldiers under Khvostov were loading 25-liter canisters of battery acid onto a KamAZ truck at a Primorye region Army base.
While troops were loading the acid, the lid of one of the canisters came loose, and its contents poured over Private Nikita Akishin, who suffered severe burns on 17 percent of his body, including his face, neck, right arm and rib cage.
A representative for the Eastern Military District said at the time that the soldier was to blame for the accident and that he had been provided with immediate medical care.
But Akishin’s sister subsequently told Interfax that her brother had to wait two hours for doctors to arrive and examine him.
Akishin’s sister said that her brother tried to wash himself in a puddle and asked for professional medical help, adding that the T-shirt and gloves he was wearing were completely destroyed by the acid.Akishin’s sister said Khvostov then said the loading work was a priority and told Akishin to “run around the camp and get some fresh air so that you don’t feel the pain” (Moscow Times, 2012).
Arrested After Investigation Of Explosion On Judson Street
Date: October 24, 2012
Source: Times Call
Abstract: Longmont police and SWAT teams looking for suspects in a Friday night acid bombing instead uncovered a drug manufacturing operation Wednesday night on the 100 block of Judson St.
Officers on Friday responded to the 1900 block of Donovan Drive on report of a suspicious incident. According to reports, when the police arrived, they found a homemade acid bomb in the street that had already exploded.
After receiving reports of an explosion at the Judson address, officers obtained a search warrant.
Longmont Police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said upon entering the address, officers discovered two men had a hash-extracting operation and had accidentally ignited a supply of butane they had been using in the process.
It is not believed that the two men at the address are in any way related to the acid bomb incident.The two were arrested. A 32-year-old man was held on suspicion of possession of a schedule 2 controlled substance and distribution of a schedule 2 controlled substance. A 29-year-old man was held on suspicion of manufacture of a schedule 1 controlled substance and possession of a schedule 1 controlled substance (Times Call, 2012).
Accused In Kandy Acid-Throwing Case Get Prison Sentences Of Up To 70 Years
Date: October 28, 2012
Source: Sunday Times
Abstract: Seven persons found guilty in the Kandy District Lalith Ambanwala acid attack case have been given prison terms ranging from 10 to 70 years.
The seven are former Education Deputy Director Don Ananda Munasinghe; accountant Ananda Weerasinghe; M. Razik Mohamed Rihan; H. S. Mohamed Shafi; H. G. O. L. M. Mohamed Nilfer; M. J. M. R. Ifrul Rahuman, and M. H. M. Imtias. They were charged with causing grievous hurt to Audit Superintendent Lalith Ambanwala and attempting to threaten his life on May 20, 2002, at Asgiriya, Kandy.
Central Province High Court Judge Preethi Padman Surasena said this was a landmark case and that the sentencing should send a message to all public servants that the State was determined to stamp out corruption and crime and ensure the safety and wellbeing of all citizens.
In his evidence, Lalith Ambanwela said he joined the Education Service in 1979 and became Audit Officer of the Education Department in 2001. He said Education Director Ananda Munasinghe who had once been his audit instructor, came seeking his help regarding a “problem.” He was accompanied by accountant Ananda Weerasinghe. The two said there was an audit enquiry and that they needed Mr. Ambanwela’s assistance.
Ananda Munasinghe told Mr. Ambanwela that the audit inquiry related to the Teacher Service Training Programme and the years between and including 1998 and 2001. Mr. Ambanwela said that before he joined the Education Department a Mrs. Amitha Senanani was auditing the Education Department accounts.
In 2001, there was another audit inquiry into a sum of Rs.1,720,000 that was to be spent on the purchase of computers. Subsequent to the enquiries, Ananda Weerasinghe was indicted. Later, Weerasinghe abused Mr. Ambanwela when the two met at the Kandy Secretariat. This was followed by threatening telephone calls. Mr. Ambanwela said he even received threatening calls on New Year’s Day. He did not go to the Police but informed his superior at the Department.
Mr. Ambanwela told
court that he lived in Lewella, Kandy, and that he left the office twice a day
– once to pick up his child to take him to school, and the second time to head
home after work.
On May 21, 2001, he left the office after 4 p.m. and set out for home from near the Kandy Clock Tower. He took the road that goes past the Police barracks. He noticed a cream-coloured three-wheeler following his car. At the turn-off to the Asgiriya Stadium, he heard a voice calling out “Ado.” He turned and saw Mohammed Nilfer. The next moment, Nilfer threw a liquid in his face that caused a burning sensation. He stopped the car and screamed for help. Passers-by then rushed him to hospital. A number of witnesses gave evidence at the trial.
The case was first heard in the Kandy Magistrate’s Court, in the old Court House, before Chief Magistrate C. V. Rajapakse. The case was next heard in the Kandy High Court, with High Court Judge Nalin Perera presidingSpeaking after the judgment and sentencing last week, Mr. Ambalwela, who lost one eye in the acid attack, told the Sunday Times that he now felt as if he had 100 eyes (Sunday Times, 2012).
Title: 61-Year-Old Throws Acid, Gets 4-Year RI
Date: November 3, 2012
Source: Times of India
Abstract: A senior citizen has been sentenced to four years of rigorous imprisonment for trying to kill a taxi driver by throwing acid on his face.
District Judge O P Gupta handed down the jail term to Om Prakash(61), a west Delhi resident, saying the punishment must have a deterrent effect. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 3,000. The maximum punishment under the Indian Penal Code for a murder bid is life imprisonment.
Om Prakash, convicted for trying to kill taxi driver Karan Kumar, had sought leniency saying the offence was committed in the spur of the moment and there was no pre-planning. Kumar had deposed that Prakash had thrown acid on his face for washing his taxi in front of his stationery shop on February 28 last year. Prakash had objected to this but Kumar paid no heed to the objections. The accused had then brought a mug of acid and thrown it at the victim, the prosecution said. By the time Kumar's neighbours reached, Om Prakash had already fled (Times of India, 2012).
Blackmailer Threatened To Burn Victim’s Children With Acid In £80,000 Demand
Date: November 5, 2012
Source: Sunderland Echo
Abstract: A terrified dad was warned his children would be attacked with acid if he did not pay a mystery blackmailer £80,000.
The victim, whose family’s cars were damaged by a corrosive liquid during the blackmail plot, was ordered not to tell the police or even his wife about the terrifying demands.
He said he was left “physically shaking” by the menacing calls and threats and the “catastrophic effect” of his plight left him in fear for the safety of his entire family.
Ryan Lloyd, aka Griffin, admitted buying the mobile phone top-up cards used by the blackmailer to make the demands, but was too afraid to name the person he supplied them to.
Lloyd, 23, of Gayhurst Crescent, Sunderland, admitted aiding and abetting blackmail.
He was jailed for three years and three months for his part in the extortion plot and an unrelated assault he pleaded guilty to where he knocked a 16-year-old girl unconscious with a single kick.
Judge Simon Hickey said: “Clearly there is another man you are too frightened to name, and won’t name, who is operating above you. I accept there is someone else in the background who is unidentified.”
The court heard the victim was told the demand for money stemmed from a £38,000 loan he took out for his business, and partially paid back, before his firm collapsed in 2009.
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He tried to explain the loan had been to the business and not to him personally.
It was in December last year the cars came under attack and January this year he received the calls.
Prosecutor Bob Spragg told the court: “During the first call, the male said they had done his cars and chillingly he said if the money did not get paid, acid would be thrown over his kids.”
Similar threats and demands were made during a second call.
Mr Spragg said: “He describes himself physically shaking and in fear for the safety of himself and his family after he received that call.”
Robin Patton, defending, said Lloyd did not know what was being said during the calls or the impact they were having on the victim.
He said: “He did not know the rights and wrongs of this at all.”
Mr Patton said the person Lloyd gave the phone cards to was “menacing”.
Speaking after the case, Detective Sergeant Barbara McGough, from Northumbria Police’s crime department, who led the investigation, praised the victim for coming forward and telling police.
She said: “Blackmail is a very unusual offence but an extremely serious one.
“The amount of fear it can cause the victim, their family and friends can’t be underestimated.
“Although it may seem like a difficult decision, we would always urge victims of blackmail to come forward and report it to police.“We will take action and, as today’s result shows, those who commit these crimes can face substantial punishment from the courts” (Sunderland Echo, 2012).