National Briefs

Parole OK’d for ‘evil twin’ convicted in plot to kill sister

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California woman convicted of conspiring to kill her identical twin sister in the 1990s has been recommended for parole after spending nearly two decades in prison, according to a report published Tuesday.

In a case that made international headlines, Jeen “Gina” Han — who police dubbed the “evil twin” — was sentenced to 26 years to life in May 1998.

Han and two others were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, burglary and false imprisonment. Prosecutors said the trio conspired in a failed plan to murder Sunny Han, who was bound and gagged along with her roommate before police rescued them.

The Korean-born twins were co-valedictorians at their San Diego County high school, were once close but had a history of fighting, authorities have said. Their relationship deteriorated after Sunny Han accused her sister of stealing her BMW.

The state Board of Parole recommended the release of Gina Han, now 43, after a hearing on Oct. 31, the Orange County Register reported.

Under California law, the decision includes a 120-day review period so Gov. Jerry Brown can decide whether to approve or reject the parole recommendation.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office in a letter Monday asked Brown to reject the parole recommendation, saying that Gina Han failed to address her alleged mental disorder and still poses a risk to society.

Deputy District Attorney Nikki Chambers said Gina Han, as an example of her plans for parole, gave the board letters from a men with whom she is corresponding.

Her pen pals from abroad and across the country have offered her money, jobs and lodging, including a man from Britain who gave her money after corresponding for a year, the prosecutor said.

“The fact remains that she is still flexing the manipulation muscles that she used when she recruited two young men to murder her sister, and they appear to be as keen as they were in 1996,” Chambers wrote.

Retail group: Those using both online, stores spending more

NEW YORK (AP) — A retail trade group estimates that people who shopped both online and in stores from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday spent more than those who stuck to one or the other.

The National Retail Federation estimated Tuesday that more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online during those five days, higher than its previous 164 million forecast. The group finds those who shopped online and in stores spent or were planning to spend $82 more on average than online-only shoppers, and $49 more on average than store-only shoppers.

Meanwhile, Adobe Analytics says Cyber Monday was the biggest U.S. online shopping day ever, with a record $6.59 billion spent, up 17 percent from last year.

The NRF said the average expected spending per person was $335.47. The group didn’t offer a comparable number from last year because it changed its methodology, but said it was in line with expectations. About 75 percent of the spending went specifically toward gifts, and the biggest spenders were people aged 25 to 34, who spent $419.52 on average. The group surveyed more than 3,200 people Saturday and Sunday about their spending so far and their plans.

“We are encouraged that we are starting from a position of strength,” said Matthew Shay, CEO and president of the NRF. But he warned that the weekend is not a definite predictor of the rest of the holiday period. The Thanksgiving weekend traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season, but stores have increasingly started their sales earlier in the month.

More than 64 million planned to or shopped both online or in stores from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, the NRF said, while more than 58 million were doing their shopping online only and over 51 million were going to stores only.

Rep. Gutierrez of Illinois says it’s ‘my time to move on’

CHICAGO (AP) — Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a Democratic party leader on efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, announced Tuesday he won’t seek re-election next year after 13 terms.

“This is my time to move on,” the congressman said at a Chicago news conference. “I want to take my energy and abilities to somewhere where I know I want to place them.”

Oscillating between emotional and spirited, Gutierrez refused to call it a retirement, saying he still plans on advocating for immigrant rights and for storm-damaged Puerto Rico, where his family is from. After his term ends in 2019, he said he’ll travel nationwide with his family and wants to do it while he’s healthy.

He appeared alongside Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and endorsed him as his replacement. They both started their political careers together as proteges of the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.

Word of Gutierrez stepping down came as a surprise, especially since the 63-year-old filed candidate petitions for the Illinois primary with the State Board of Elections a day earlier. The late announcement gave potential successors to his predominantly Hispanic Chicago-area district less than a week to gather signatures to get on the March 20 ballot.

Gutierrez, first elected in 1992, is a leading member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and has become one of the most visible figures in the push for immigration reform. He’s been arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House and federal immigration offices numerous times, has backed legislation to help young people brought to the country illegally and has called for more English language proficiency programs and citizenship workshops. In immigrant circles and in his district, Gutierrez remains very popular and has easily won re-election over the years. His office has run robust constituent services, with immigrants nationwide seeking his help on their cases.