Ex-Odebrecht CEO, symbol of Brazil graft probe, leaves jail

Published: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 @ 2:36 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 @ 2:36 PM


            In this March 26, 2017 file photo, people march against corruption and in support of the Car Wash investigation on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marcelo Odebrecht, one of the most prominent people convicted in Latin America's largest corruption scandal left prison Tuesday, Dec. 19, for house arrest after serving two-and-a-half years behind bars at a time when many Brazilians are becoming disillusioned with the graft investigation once hailed as a political game-changer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
In this March 26, 2017 file photo, people march against corruption and in support of the Car Wash investigation on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marcelo Odebrecht, one of the most prominent people convicted in Latin America's largest corruption scandal left prison Tuesday, Dec. 19, for house arrest after serving two-and-a-half years behind bars at a time when many Brazilians are becoming disillusioned with the graft investigation once hailed as a political game-changer. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

One of the most prominent people convicted in Latin America's largest corruption scandal left prison Tuesday for house arrest after serving two-and-a-half years behind bars at a time when many Brazilians are becoming disillusioned with the graft investigation once hailed as a political game-changer.

Marcelo Odebrecht's release came a day after Brazil's top court halted investigations into several lawmakers, underscoring the limitations of the "Car Wash" investigation that uncovered nearly institutionalized corruption involving senior politicians in several countries and several major Brazilian companies.

Odebrecht, who was CEO of his family's company of the same name, cooperated with prosecutors and testified that executives routinely paid bribes and made illegal campaign contributions to politicians in exchange for favors. He was originally sentenced to 19 years in prison, but, once he began cooperating, that penalty was reduced to 10, with the agreement that the majority of it would be served under house arrest.

Odebrecht's conviction and jailing were seen as a major victory for Car Wash prosecutors. The testimony of Odebrecht and other executives revealed that, for years, the company had essentially captured the Brazilian state, paying bribes and kickbacks to whoever was in power, whoever might be able to do a favor here, award a contract there.

The corruption was so organized — and endemic — that it had its own department at Odebrecht, blandly named the Division of Structured Operations.

On Tuesday, Odebrecht left prison and went to the federal court in the southern state of Parana, where an electronic bracelet was attached, the court said. Neither the court nor his representatives would say where he was headed next, but local media have reported he will serve out his term in his home in an upscale neighborhood of Sao Paulo.

"The main objective of this new phase of his life is, I repeat, to return to the family fold, which is very dear to him, and to be effective in his collaboration" with prosecutors, Nabor Bulhoes, a lawyer for Odebrecht told reporters outside the court. "Right now, he has no other plan and no other goal."

While Odebrecht's release was expected, it underscored the inequalities in Brazil's criminal justice system, in which corruption and white collar crimes generally receive little jail time.

"It's terrible for the image of Brazil," said Celcino Rodrigues Junior, a 26-year-old law student in Sao Paulo, referring to Odebrecht's release. "It's favorable to him because he will be in a mansion, he will be in total comfort."

Revealing the extent of corruption in Brazil was one of Car Wash's great achievements. The other was managing to put some of its masterminds, Odebrecht among them, in jail.

But the investigation has slowed in recent months, and there have been accusations that President Michel Temer and other senior politicians are trying to hinder it. Some fear the new chief of the federal police will be less aggressive in investigating corruption, and others bemoaned the closure earlier this year of the task force dedicated to the probe. Temer has always maintained that he supports the investigation.

Despite its success in sending several businessmen to jail, the Car Wash operation has also struggled to put senior politicians behind bars. That's at least partially because sitting politicians have the right to be tried in the Supreme Court, where justice is slow and often deferential.

On Monday, a Supreme Court panel voted 2-1 to stop Car Wash investigations against four members of Congress. The decision effectively shields them from investigation while they remain in office.

Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes also ordered house arrest instead of jail for Adriana Anselmo, wife of former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral. Cabral has been convicted of corruption and is in prison, while his wife has been in jail accused of several crimes.

"Brazilians, as a whole, are exhausted by this marathon of scandal, and it's only natural that they would be disappointed by and exhausted by the absence of any real accountability," said Matthew Taylor, an associate professor at the School of International Service at American University in Washington.

Even though the operation, known as Lava Jato" in Portugese, hasn't always lived up to Brazil's highest hopes, Taylor says it has made significant progress.

"The fact that Odebrecht went to jail at all is a paradigm-shifting event in Brazilian history," he said. "Lava Jato has moved the needle."

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Sarah DiLorenzo on Twitter: twitter.com/sdilorenzo

Police: Man with ‘ornate umbrella’ thought to be rifle causes hospital lockdown

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 7:53 PM

An item carried by a man in a Washington state hospital thought to be a rifle was actually an umbrella with a sword handle.
Kirkland Police Department
An item carried by a man in a Washington state hospital thought to be a rifle was actually an umbrella with a sword handle.(Kirkland Police Department)

A hospital in Washington state was locked down Wednesday morning after police say a doctor saw a man with what was believed to be a rifle inside the facility. The image was caught on a surveillance camera.

Kirkland, Washington, police Officer Cody Mann said officers searched the EvergreenHealth Medical Center room by room. The hospital released a surveillance image of the man on social media.

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After the man saw an image of himself on social media, he contacted authorities, Kirkland police spokeswoman Tiffany Trombley said.

“The person we were looking for observed himself on social media and he was able to contact us and let us know  that ‘I am the person you are looking for. The item that you guys think is a rifle is actually an ornate umbrella,” Trombley said.

The report initially came in as a suspicious person that may have had a rifle, but police were unsure if it was actually a rifle that was seen until the surveillance image was available.

Those inside the hospital sheltered in place until the word was given that there was no threat. The lockdown was lifted by 10:10 a.m. local time, the hospital said.

Baby found abandoned on airport bathroom changing table

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 3:13 PM

Baby Found Abandoned In Airport Bathroom On Changing Table

Authorities are trying to find the person who abandoned a baby in an airport bathroom. 

Police at Tucson International Airport are now combing through surveillance footage, trying to find out who left the a newborn baby boy on a woman’s bathroom changing table Sunday, AZCentral reported.

Not only are they trying to find the mother of the baby to find out what happened, but also to find out if she needs help.

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The newborn was only hours old and was in good health, Tucson Police spokeswoman Jessie Butler told AZCentral.

The baby was clean and swaddled, KMSB reported.

Arizona is a state that offers Safe Haven for babies, meaning they can be dropped off at specific locations like staffed fire stations, hospitals and churches. Parents can be anonymous but they have to answer questions about the baby and its health, KMSB reportedAccording to the Safe Haven law, babies can be up to three days old.

Since the program started in 2001, 40 babies have been taken in by Safe Haven, KMSB reported.

An airport is not listed among the legal locations, but there was a fire station nearby, AZCentral reported.

If found, the mother could face charges after police investigate why she left the baby.

Teen accused of killing acquaintance who sold him paprika instead of pot 

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 2:01 PM

Police - Teen Kills Acquaintance Who Sold Him a Cooking Spice Instead of Pot

A Utah teenager has been charged as an adult in a homicide that police investigators said took place after another teen sold him cooking spices instead of marijuana.

Seth Carreras, 17, of Layton, was moved into the adult population at the Davis County Jail earlier this month, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. He is being held without bail on charges of murder and assault by a prisoner.

Reporters described Carreras as “smirking” during a Jan. 5 court hearing in the death of Hunter Woodson, 19, who was gunned down in his Sunset home on Nov. 21. Carreras is accused of barging into the house and shooting Woodson to death in front of his girlfriend.

Woodson’s family members described Carreras’ facial expression in court as an “evil smile.” 

“I feel like he had zero remorse for what he did,” Travis Woodson, Hunter Woodson’s uncle, told the Tribune. “He was proud of what he did. He was acting like he’s proud of it.”

Court documents obtained by the newspaper allege that Carreras went to Woodson’s home the afternoon of the shooting after the pair messaged back and forth about a marijuana sale. They initially smoked a joint so Carreras could test the drug Woodson was selling, but the younger teen did not have cash on him, so he left. 

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He came back later in the day to buy 1 ½ ounces of the drug. Woodson did not have that much marijuana on hand, but told Carreras that he did. 

While he sent his 17-year-old girlfriend out to collect Carreras’ cash, Woodson filled a small, pink plastic bag with paprika, salt, pepper and other spices and taped it shut, the affidavit said. When Woodson’s girlfriend delivered the fake marijuana to Carreras, he felt the bag and sensed that something was not right.

As he ripped the bag open, the girl ran into the house to warn Woodson, the Tribune reported

Carreras followed her inside and into Woodson’s bedroom, where the girl hid behind the door while Woodson took a fighting stance, the affidavit said. 

The girl told police that when Carreras walked into the room with a gun, Woodson asked, “What are you going to do about it, shoot me?”

Carreras did just that, firing “a lot of times” and causing Woodson to fall to the floor, the girl told investigators. He then stood over Woodson and continued shooting. 

Before he fled, he rifled through Woodson’s pockets for his cash, the affidavit said. 

Carreras was arrested less than 30 minutes later at his home, where officers found him trying to crawl under a car to hide, the Tribune said

Woodson’s obituary described him as a high school senior who, “after hitting a rough patch … was getting his life turned around.” He had started taking some college courses and was looking forward to the future, his family wrote.

“You could usually find Hunter with his shaggy hair and charismatic smile doing what he loved more than anything else, eating,” the obituary read

“Hunter loved skateboarding, playing football and doing MMA,” his family wrote. “He was training for his first fight. He also loved the outdoors and spending time with family.”

Police officials who searched Carreras’ home after the shooting found hundreds of pill bottles, guns, ammunition and two machetes in a shed on the property, the Tribune reported in December. They also found scales used to measure drug amounts and “marijuana shake,” or small bits of plant matter that remain after larger nuggets are bagged or used, on the floor.

When investigators opened the shed door, they found a man sitting inside with a sword, the Tribune reported. He dropped the weapon and was arrested without incident.

Prior to his move to the adult jail, Carreras was held in a juvenile detention facility. His pending assault charge stems from a Dec. 22 incident in which he is accused of kicking the leg of a juvenile detention staff member. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashes into tree after helping car stuck in snow

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 5:50 PM

What You Need To Know: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It could be said that former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has some of the best driving skills ever, having made a living out of going more than 200 miles an hour on some of our country’s toughest racetracks.

Yet, with snow involved, Earnhardt got into some trouble while trying to help other people stuck in the weather.

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“(North Carolina) stay off the roads today/tonight. Five minutes after helping these folks I center punched a pine tree,” Dale shared on his Twitter page on Wednesday shortly after stopping to help some stranded travelers on the road. “All good. Probably just needs a new alignment,” he added.

Fans were were thankful Earnhardt was OK, but the tweet didn’t come without some NASCAR jokes. 

“Jr. did you attempt to turn right? Gets ya every time,” one Twitter user said.

Earnhardt’s accident comes a day after the former NASCAR driver, voted the sport’s most popular driver for 15 consecutive years, announced the day before that he would be covering the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl in the coming weeks as part of his new deal as a contributor to NBC Sports.

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 29: Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks on stage during the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on November 29, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)(David Becker/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, Dale Jr. was not the only driver to find himself in harm’s way thanks to the snow, as NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez found himself stuck in the snow on the side of the road in his sports car Wednesday.

Michael Waltrip decided to drive in snowy conditions in North Carolina, and appeared to do so safely in his Ford and later in his Toyota Tundra.

Headed out. I don’t have snow worries in my @toyotausa #Tundra.

A post shared by Michael Waltrip (@mwr55) on

Driver Kevin Harvick thought better of it, making the decision to stay in and enjoy the snow off the main roads.

How we celebrate a snow day!! #burnemdown

A post shared by Kevin Harvick (@kevinharvick) on