In brief: Secret Service scandal grows
WASHINGTON – The Secret Service prostitution scandal grew Monday to include a 12th member of the U.S. military as the Pentagon suspended the security clearances of all the military personnel who have been implicated. The Secret Service has also taken action against 12 of its employees.
Three Defense Department officials said the 12th military person involved was in Colombia in advance of President Barack Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas and was assigned to the White House Communications Agency, a military unit that provides secure communications for the president. The Defense officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said he is an enlisted man. One of the officials said he is in the Army.
Another of the officials said the soldier has been relieved of his duties at the White House.
Six Secret Service employees, including two supervisors, have been forced out of the agency amid the scandal that erupted the morning of April 12 when a fight over payment between a Colombian prostitute and a Secret Service officer spilled into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe. They were part of Obama’s advance security team in Cartagena. One officer was cleared of serious wrongdoing but will face administrative action, the agency said Friday. The remaining five officers have been suspended.
A 12th officer was implicated late last week.
Suspect out of jail, likely out of Florida
SANFORD, Fla. – George Zimmerman, who slipped out of jail on $150,000 bail in the early morning darkness, went back into hiding Monday and likely fled to another state to avoid threats as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Later Monday, the Sanford City Commission rejected by a 3-2 vote the resignation of police Chief Bill Lee, who was roundly criticized for not initially charging Zimmerman and had stepped down temporarily in March he said to let emotions cool.
Authorities can pinpoint Zimmerman’s location with a GPS ankle bracelet that he must wear round the clock.
Hudson takes stand at murder trial
CHICAGO – The trial of the man accused of killing Jennifer Hudson’s family opened with the marquee witness, as prosecutors put the award-winning actress and singer on the stand Monday.
Hudson testified just yards from her former brother-in-law, who prosecutors say killed her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in a horrific act of vindictiveness against Hudson’s sister four years ago.
To the surprise of many observers, Hudson, the 2004 “American Idol” finalist and 2007 Oscar winner for her role in “Dreamgirls,” was the first witness called after a prosecutor and defense attorney for William Balfour finished their opening statements. She offered moving testimony about her family, including her reaction to her sister, Julia Hudson, telling her in 2006 she was marrying Balfour.
“None of us wanted her to marry him,” Hudson said.
Balfour has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the October 2008 slayings.
California will vote on death penalty
LOS ANGELES – California is set for a major debate on the death penalty following qualification Monday of a November ballot measure that would replace capital punishment with a life term without possibility of parole.
If passed, the measure would make California the 18th state in the nation to end the death penalty.
November’s ballot measure would commute the sentences of more than 700 people on death row to life without possibility of parole, a term that would then become the state’s most severe form of criminal punishment.
Most death row inmates would be returned to the general prison population and be expected to work. Their earnings would go to crime victims.