National Briefs

Report finds law enforcement failed at Charlottesville rally

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Law enforcement’s response to a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia last summer failed on multiple fronts, leading to “deep distrust of government” in the Charlottesville community, an independent review released Friday found.

Former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy’s monthslong investigation of the Charlottesville rally found that the city failed by not adequately communicating or coordinating in advance and by removing an officer from an area where a car plowed into counterprotesters and killed a woman.

Heaphy’s team interviewed 150 people and pored over half a million documents for the report, which found a lack of preparation and coordination between state and city police and a passive response by officers to the chaos.

“This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions–the protection of fundamental rights,” the report said. “Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on Aug. 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community.”

White nationalists who descended on Charlottesville in part to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee began fighting in the streets with counterdemonstrators before the event even officially began. The brawling went on for nearly an hour in front of officers until the event eventually disbanded. Later, as counterdemonstrators were peacefully marching through a downtown street, a car drove into the crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many more.

The report says “planning and coordination breakdowns” before Aug. 12 led to “disastrous results.”

“Because of their misalignment and lack of accessible protective gear, officers failed to intervene in physical altercations that took place in areas adjacent to Emancipation Park,” the report said.

Police: Retiree made ricin, tested it on neighbors

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A retirement community resident made ricin and tested the deadly toxin on her neighbors by putting it on their food or in beverages over a period of weeks, investigators said.

Betty Miller told an FBI agent that she wanted to “injure herself” and was testing the poison’s effectiveness on other residents at the Wake Robin senior living facility, according to a criminal complaint.

A handcuffed Miller, 70, made her first appearance in federal court Friday. Judge John Conroy noted that Miller had a “lengthy mental health history,” but did not elaborate.

Miller was placed in custody and was scheduled to be in court again on Wednesday. She said she was working on getting a lawyer.

Police were called to the senior community in Shelburne on Tuesday after Miller told heath care providers she had manufactured the ricin and placed it on other residents’ food and beverages, the agent said in the complaint. No residents reported symptoms of ricin poisoning, he said.

Miller said she harvested 30 to 40 castor beans from plants growing on Wake Robin’s property and made 2 to 3 tablespoons of ricin twice in her kitchen, the complaint said. She exposed other residents to the ricin on at least three occasions, the complaint said.

Investigators found a pill bottle half full with powder labeled as ricin in a basket in a kitchen cabinet of Miller’s apartment a midst other pill bottles labeled “apple seed,” ”cherry seed” and “yew seed,” the complaint said.

The powder tested positive for ricin. Investigators also found instructions for making ricin that apparently were from the internet, the affidavit said.

If inhaled, ricin causes difficulty breathing and other symptoms. If ingested, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations and seizures. Initial symptoms of ricin poisoning are most likely to occur within four to 10 hours of exposure.

After mistrial, Menendez seeks to have charges dismissed

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Two weeks after his bribery trial ended in a hung jury, Sen. Bob Menendez renewed his request to have the charges thrown out.

Attorneys filed the motion Thursday on behalf of the New Jersey Democrat and his co-defendant and friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.

Menendez is charged with accepting free flights on a private jet and luxury vacations from Melgen in exchange for using his political influence with executive branch officials. He has repeatedly denied the charges since the indictment was handed up in mid-2015.

After an 11-week trial that began in early September, jurors deliberated for seven days without reaching a verdict before U.S. District Judge William Walls declared a mistrial on Nov. 16. Several jurors said afterward that as many as 10 members of the panel favored acquittal.

The Department of Justice hasn’t announced whether it plans to retry the two men. A department spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

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