TSA to improve, speed up airport security

TSA to improve, speed up airport security

The Trump administration is forging ahead with an overhaul of airport security, brushing aside criticism that the president is squandering resources on a border wall while the much-maligned Transportation Security Administration bungles its job.

They are reworking the no-fly list, deploying more bomb-sniffing K-9s at airports and are on schedule to upgrade carry-on baggage screening to high-tech 3-D imaging machines that could speed up lines and help detect bombs and other weapons.

“That is TSA’s plan to leverage technology in the future to improve security of the American public,” said a senior White House official.

The Trump administration has enhanced the no-fly list by entering more intelligence-sharing agreements with foreign governments. Authorities are also shifting to use of biometric data to better identify terrorist suspects on the list.

A major advancement is underway with installing computed-tomography (CT) machines at airport checkpoints to screen carry-on luggage. The imaging, first developed for medical tests, is leaps and bounds ahead of the X-ray machines currently in use.

Like existing CT scanners used for checked baggage, the machines that are sized to fit at checkpoints create such a clear picture of a bag’s contents that computers can automatically detect explosives, including liquids, the agency said.

Instead of the two-dimensional views of a carry-on bag generated by the current checkpoint X-ray machines, CT scanners shoot hundreds of images with an X-ray camera spinning around the conveyor belt to provide screeners with three-dimensional views.

Although TSA officials are optimistic about the advantages of the new technology, they don’t want to speculate about the potential to eliminate rules requiring travelers to remove laptop computers from carry-on bags or limits on the volume of liquids allowed through security gates.

Catching terrorists trying to smuggle explosives aboard airliners remains the top priority for airport security.

Australian authorities in July nabbed a man attempting to smuggle explosives hidden in a meat grinder in carry-on luggage at Sydney Airport. The plot was later linked to Islamic State.

The security guards discovered the meat-grinder bomb only because the bag was overweight, reports say.

The CT machines are being tested at a checkpoint screening lane at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport and a screening lane at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

The pilot program will expand after the holidays to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the fifth-busiest airport in the U.S.

TSA expects to have the technology in more airports by the end of next year.

The agency has been on the hot seat for years about its performance. Recent undercover tests by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office reportedly found that TSA checkpoints failed to detect as much as 80 percent of prohibited items that were planted in baggage.

“In an era of lone wolf terrorists, the continued TSA security failures at airports across the country are highly concerning and a major threat we must neutralize,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “In light of the recent test result reports, TSA should move immediately to address all holes, shortfalls and gaps in training procedures, technology, and the entire airport security process.”

Details of the inspector general’s report remain classified and are available only to select lawmakers.

Previous undercover tests of TSA airport checkpoints, including one this year at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, found a failure rate topping 95 percent.

“We take the OIG’s findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures and new technologies.”

The CT scanners are part of that response.

Despite the poor performance in the tests, the TSA finds and confiscates thousands of prohibited items. Last year, agents seized 3,391 firearms, a record that TSA expects to break this year.

During a single week in October, TSA discovered 90 firearms in carry-on bags across the nation. Of the 90 firearms, 77 were loaded and 28 had a round chambered, according to the agency.

The screeners also come across some bizarre items.

Items that the TSA considered its strangest finds in 2016 included:

Five dead endangered seahorses in a large liquor bottle at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

A replica of the barbed-wire-wrapped “Lucille” bat from the “Walking Dead” TV series seized at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

A trailer hitch adorned with a inert hand grenade at California’s San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

In February at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, TSA agents seized 22 pounds of illegal raw animal organs, including raw pig and cow brains, hearts, tongues and heads.

The agents regularly find “firearm components, realistic replica firearms, BB and pellet guns, airsoft guns, brass knuckles, ammunition, batons, stun guns, small pocketknives and many other prohibited items too numerous to note,” according to the TSA blog.

Last year, TSA screened more than 2 million passengers daily and 466 million checked bags.

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Foreign student enrollment in American colleges doubles since Great Recession

Foreign student enrollment in American colleges doubles since Great Recession

The number of foreign students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled since the Great Recession, according to a new study.

The Pew Research Center survey shows nearly 364,000 foreign students with F-1 visas enrolled at American institutions of higher education in 2016, up from 179,000 in 2008, an increase of 104 percent. That far outpaces the overall rate of enrollment growth at American universities, which is just 3.4 percent over that span.

The trend is especially pronounced at public universities, where the number of foreign students has increased from 101,000 to 209,000 since the Great Recession, up 107 percent. Private schools, meanwhile, have experienced 97 percent growth in foreign student enrollment since 2008.

American enrollment in public universities since 2008 has declined by less than 1 percent, but has increased by 22 percent at private schools.

The data indicate that American universities are increasingly relying on international students, who tend to pay full tuition rates, to make ends meet.

Spending by foreign students at American institutions of higher learning has grown from $5.5 billion to $15.5 billion since 2008, an increase of 184 percent. At public universities, spending by foreign students has gone up nearly 214 percent, from $2.5 billion to $7.8 billion.

Foreign students are increasingly pursuing bachelor’s degrees at public universities, the study shows, even though master’s degrees are still the most common type of degree pursued by the cohort. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of foreign students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a public university increased by 151 percent, compared to 3 percent overall growth.

In the years immediately preceding the Great Recession, from 2004 to 2007, foreign enrollment in American universities increased by a modest 20 percent, while overall U.S. enrollment increased by 7.2 percent.

Chinese students account for a plurality, 30 percent, of all foreign enrollment at American colleges. Students from India account for 18 percent of all foreign students, followed by South Korean students at 6 percent.

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Joe Barton, GOP congressman, apologizes after nude selfie surfaces online

Joe Barton, GOP congressman, apologizes after nude selfie surfaces online

Rep. Joe Barton apologized Wednesday after a nude selfie he sent to a woman a few years ago surfaced on social media.

TMZ published a censored version of the photo along with a text message purportedly from Mr. Barton that read, “I want u soo bad. Right now. Deep and hard.” The gossip website didn’t reveal any details about the Twitter user who originally posted the messages.

In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Barton, a Texas Republican, suggested that he sent the messages to a woman he was dating while he was separated from his second wife, whom he divorced in 2015.

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” Mr. Barton said, The Texas Tribune reported. “Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”

He later told The Tribune that he is “deciding how to respond” further.

A spokeswoman said Mr. Barton had no plans to resign and had filed for re-election.

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Texas resident charged with hacking campaign targeting Los Angeles County Superior Court employees

Texas resident charged with hacking campaign targeting Los Angeles County Superior Court employees

A Texas resident has been arrested and charged in connection with allegedly trying to hack into the email accounts of hundreds of Los Angeles County Superior Court employees, the district attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

Oriyomi Sadiq Aloba, 31, was arrested at his home in Houston last week and charged with 18 criminal counts related to the spear-phishing campaign, including 12 counts of false personation; five counts of altering public safety computer data, software or program; and one count of multiple identifying information theft, the L.A. district attorney’s office said in a statement.

“In July, more than 500 Superior Court employees received email messages that attempted to trick users into revealing their account credentials by directing them to visit bogus websites that appeared to be those of legitimate companies,” the statement said.

Fewer than a dozen Superior Court employees fell for the scam, and an internal review found that no sensitive case, court or financial records were compromised, according to the statement.

Prosecutors subsequently linked the campaign to Mr. Aloba and apprehended him on Nov. 15 with the assistance of members of the the FBI’s Los Angeles office, the Houston Cyber Task Force, the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the statement said.

Mr. Aloba will be arraigned on Dec. 2 and risks being sentenced to more than 14 years in state prison if convicted on all counts.

About one in 14 targets typically fall for phishing scams, Verizon concluded in the 2017 edition of its annual data breach report. The personal email account of John Podesta, the manager of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, was notably breached during last year’s race as the result of a successful phishing effort attributed to Russian hackers.

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University of Michigan advances plans to host white nationalist Richard Spencer

University of Michigan advances plans to host white nationalist Richard Spencer

The University of Michigan is moving forward with plans to potentially host an event featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer after facing legal pressure from his booking agent to let them speak on campus.

“After consulting widely with many members of our community, I made the difficult decision to begin discussions with Richard Spencer’s group to determine whether he will be allowed to rent space to speak on the University of Michigan campus,” UM President Mark Schlissel said in a statement Tuesday evening.

“If we cannot assure a reasonably safe setting for the event, we will not allow it to go forward,” Mr. Schlissel added.

Several public universities have refused to host events featuring Mr. Spencer, president and director of the National Policy Institute think tank, citing safety and security concerns raised in the wake of his previous appearances and the protests they’ve provoked.

Cameron Padgett, a Georgia State University who arranges Mr. Spencer’s speaking engagements, asked UM on Oct. 27 for permission to rent a publicly available room on campus to host an event where the two can discuss the alt-right, “a Eurocentric political ideology which advocates the preservation of national identity, a return to traditional Western values and advances European racial interests,” according to his attorney, Kyle Bristow.

Three weeks later, Mr. Bristow wrote UM administrators, threatening to sue the school unless it green-lighted the request by 5 p.m. on Nov. 24.

“My foremost priority is ensuring the safety of everyone at this university,” Mr. Schlissel responded Tuesday evening, less than 72 hours before Mr. Bristow’s deadline. “However as a public university, the law and our commitment to free speech forbid us from declining a speaker based on the presumed content of speech. But we can and will impose limits on time, place and manner of a speaking engagement to protect the safety of our UM community.

“Let me be clear,” Mr. Schlissel said. “UM has not invited this individual to our campus, nor is anyone in our community sponsoring him. His representatives made a request to rent space on our campus for him to speak. We are legally prohibited from blocking such requests based solely on the content of that speech, however sickening it is.”

Mr. Bristow said he has agreed to give the school until 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 to make a final decision before filling suit.

“There will be no further extensions,” Mr. Bristow tweeted late Tuesday.

Mr. Spencer, 39, has presided over the National Policy Institute since 2011, but he first gained notoriety last November after he was greeted with Nazi-styled salutes while speaking at the group’s annual conference. He had been scheduled to speak at the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, but his appearance was cancelled when participants including neo-Nazis and fellow white nationalists began brawling with counterprotesters before the event got underway.

One person was killed and 19 others injured when an Ohio man, James Alex Fields, drove an automobile into a crowd of people protesting white supremacists later that afternoon, according to police. Mr. Fields was subsequently charged with second-degree murder and multiple other felonies in connection with the incident and is currently scheduled to be tried in 2018.

Mr. Padgett has attempted to rent space at several public colleges for Mr. Spencer to speak at in the aftermath of the Charlottesville rally and has initiated legal action in recent months against a handful of institutions that have denied his requests on account of security concerns, including Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University and Michigan State University, among others.

The University of Florida reluctantly agreed to host a speaking engagement featuring Mr. Spencer on Oct. 19 — his first public appearance since “Unite the Right” — but said it would spend $600,000 on security costs. Police ultimately made five arrests connected to his appearance at the university’s Gainesville campus, including three attendees charged in a shooting that happened about an hour afterwards.

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Gymnastics doctor pleads guilty to sexual assault charges

Gymnastics doctor pleads guilty to sexual assault charges

The sports doctor accused of molesting young athletes while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University pleaded guilty today to multiple charges of sexual assault.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, Dr. Larry Nassar appeared in court in Michigan’s Ingham County and pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving girls who were 15 years old or younger.

The plea deal calls for a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, and the judge could set the minimum as high as 40 years.

Nassar, 54, answered “yes” to questions during the hearing about whether he penetrated each of the seven girls using his finger without gloves. He acknowledged that his actions were not for any legitimate medical purpose and were against medical protocol.

“I think this is important to have what I’ve done today to help move the community forward and away from the hurting and let the healing start,” Nassar said in a statement to the court this morning. “I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into forest fire out of control.”

Nassar will be sentenced Jan. 12 at 9 a.m. ET, and the victims will have an opportunity to speak, the judge said.

“You used that position of trust that you had in the most vile way to abuse children. I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing,” Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said in response to his statement. “I’m not going to speak for them. They’re going to have that opportunity at sentencing, and that will strengthen and heal them. I agree, and I’m glad you recognize that, but it does fall very short.

“But they are strong in numbers, and I’m proud of them. They are superheroes for all of America, because this is an epidemic,” she added.

He previously pleaded not guilty to the seven counts. The charges relate to Nassar’s time a faculty member at Michigan State University, from 1997 to 2016, when, the university said, he was fired after the allegations surfaced.

Nassar’s attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Now that the criminal case is over, a civil lawsuit filed by more than 125 women and girls, mostly gymnasts, will be able to move forward. As part of his plea agreement, Nassar admitted that touching the women and girls was not a medical procedure, and he will not be able to use it as a defense moving forward.

The attorneys representing the victims, John Manly, Stephen Drew and James White, spoke at a press conference following Nassar’s plea hearing Wednesday.

Manly said that Nassar’s guilty plea does not bring back the innocence of the victims, many of whom were members of Team USA.

White said that they will never know exactly how many people were assaulted by Nassar because, by his own admission, he had done the procedure “thousands” of times.

Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas have publicly said they were abused by Nassar as well.

One victim, 18-year-old Adrian College gymnast Kaylee Lorincz, said Wednesday Nassar had sexually assaulted her shortly after her 13th birthday. Kaylee Lorincz, who was accompanied by her mother, Lisa Lorincz, thanked the victims who came forward before her, including Maroney and Raisman.

Lisa Lorincz said that she didn’t think anyone would believe what happened to her daughter after the incident because Nassar was so powerful.

He is facing lawsuits filed by more than 125 women and girls, mostly gymnasts.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement that it is “very sorry that any athlete was harmed by Larry Nassar. Upon first learning of athlete concerns about Nassar in 2015, USA Gymnastics reported him to the FBI and relieved him of any involvement with USA Gymnastics. Federal and state authorities ultimately charged Nassar with multiple crimes, leading to his incarceration and now his admission of guilt to charges of criminal sexual conduct. We note that affected women contacted by Michigan prosecutors supported resolution by plea, and USA Gymnastics also views Nassar’s guilty plea as an important acknowledgment of his appalling and devious conduct that permits punishment without further victimization of survivors.”

ABC News’ Rachel Katz contributed to this report.

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Driver fleeing police hits, kills 3-year-old boy in Connecticut

Driver fleeing police hits, kills 3-year-old boy in Connecticut

A driver fleeing from authorities hit and killed a toddler in Connecticut on Tuesday afternoon, police said.

The incident occurred in Waterbury, where local police officers in an unmarked vehicle attempted to stop a suspect of a criminal investigation on Tuesday around 3:45 p.m. ET. The suspect, identified as 18-year-old Zekhi Eric Lee of Waterbury, failed to pull over his Acura and fled from officers, according to Connecticut State Police.

Lee collided with a Toyota Corolla at an intersection and veered off the road onto the sidewalk, striking four pedestrians and knocking down a light pole, state police said.

After crashing his vehicle, Lee fled on foot but was apprehended by Waterbury police officers a short time later and taken into custody, according to state police.

Five people were transported to local hospitals for injuries related to the incident, including a 19-month-old girl. A 3-year-old boy was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to state police.

Connecticut State Police detectives are investigating the fatal crash.

Police say anyone with information about the incident should contact Western District Major Crime Detective Ed Vayan at 203-267-2200 or text TIP711 with any information to 274637. All calls and texts will be kept confidential, authorities say.

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White nationalist Spencer banned from 26 European nations

White nationalist Spencer banned from 26 European nations

A leading figure in the U.S. white nationalist movement said Wednesday that he hasn’t received government confirmation of his reported ban from entering more than two dozen European countries.

Poland’s state-run news agency PAP says Polish authorities banned Richard Spencer from entering 26 countries in Europe’s visa-free Schengen area for five years. The news agency cited unnamed sources close to Poland’s Foreign Ministry.

A source close to the Polish Foreign Ministry confirmed to The Associated Press that the ban has taken effect. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the ministry’s behalf.

Spencer previously was banned from the Schengen zone for three years after his 2014 arrest in Hungary, where he had planned to host a conference.

Spencer told The Associated Press he would try to contest a new ban.

“I’m being treated like a criminal by the Polish government. It’s just insane,” he said. “I haven’t done anything. What are they accusing me of?”

Spencer popularized the term “alt-right” to describe a fringe movement that’s a loose mix of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration beliefs. In August, he was scheduled to speak at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman.

Spencer said he canceled plans to travel to Poland for a far-right conference in Warsaw earlier this month after seeing reports the government was threatening to keep him out of the country.

“It just didn’t feel like it was worth it,” he said.

Last month, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski described Spencer as someone “who defames what happened during World War II, defames the Holocaust.”

“He should not appear publicly, and especially not in Poland,” Waszczykowski said.

Besides Poland, the 26 Schengen countries also include France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

———

Associated Press reporter Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this story.

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Gabby Douglas alleges she was abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar

Gabby Douglas alleges she was abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar

Yet another Olympic gymnast is claiming she was abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

Following accusations of sexual abuse by gymnasts McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, their former teammate Gabby Douglas came forward Tuesday with her accusation.

Douglas said in a statement Tuesday posted to Instagram that she had not previously spoken in public about the alleged abuse it because she felt she was “conditioned” to stay silent.

“I didn’t publicly share my experiences as well as many other things because for years we were conditioned to stay silent and honestly some things were extremely painful,” she wrote. “I wholeheartedly support my teammates for coming forward with what happened to them.”

ABC News has contacted a lawyer for Nassar for comment on Douglas’ accusation.

Last week, after Raisman posted a tweet encouraging women to “wear what you feel good in” without fear of shame, Douglas replied, saying, “it is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd.”

Douglas’ tweet caused backlash on social media and even drew criticism from teammate Simone Biles.

“I didn’t view my comments as victim shaming because I know that no matter what you wear, it NEVER gives anyone the right to harass or abuse you,” Douglas wrote. “It would be like saying that because of the leotards we wore, it was our fault that we were abused by Larry Nassar.”

Douglas later deleted the tweet and apologized to her teammates and followers, saying, “regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstances is never acceptable. i am WITH you. #metoo.”

Douglas reiterated her apology in her statement on Tuesday.

“it’s very humbling when many people look up to you as an example,” she said. “I take my job as a role model very seriously and I always want to do my best to represent all the best qualities that a role model should embody. I admit there are times that I fall short.”

In February, Nassar was charged in Michigan with 22 counts of criminal sexual conduct from his time working at Michigan State University. Five of those counts relate to victims who were under 13 years old, prosecutors said.

Nassar has previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, butThe Associated Press reported Tuesday that Nassar plans to plead guilty to multiple charges and will face at least 25 years in prison, citing a person with knowledge of the plea agreement.

Nassar is also facing similar charges in Eaton County, which is home to an elite gymnastics club, and is awaiting sentencing on federal child pornography charges, according to the AP.

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‘A Killing on the Cape’: The Murder of Christa Worthington — Episode 5

‘A Killing on the Cape’: The Murder of Christa Worthington — Episode 5

This is Episode 5 of “A Killing on the Cape,” a six-episode ABC Radio podcast and an ABC News “20/20” documentary.

For Episodes 1-4, please visit http://abcnews.com/akillingonthecape.

Subscribe and listen to the podcast on our partners and platforms: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and under the “Listen” tab on the ABC News app.

The “20/20” special presentation of “A Killing on the Cape” will air on Friday, Nov. 24, starting at 9 p.m. ET.

Episode 5: The Verdict –

When police announced the arrest of Christopher McCowen for the 2002 murder of Christa Worthington, they worked to assure the community that their investigation, however long and controversial it was at times, had resulted in arresting the right man.

“It’s a relief for the community, and now they can rest at night,” former Truro Police Chief John Thomas said at the time. “It’s probably another relief that it wasn’t a stranger that just came in and randomly picked a house.”

Worthington, a 46-year-old fashion writer and single mother, was found stabbed to death in her seaside cottage in Truro, Massachusetts, on Jan. 6, 2002, with her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Ava, by her side, unharmed.

There were a number of steps in the investigation that drew criticism, but the arrest of a poorly educated black man for the murder of a wealthy white woman would rank among the top.

Worthington’s home was on McCowen’s trash route and investigators had matched his DNA to DNA samples found on Worthington’s body. During the course of a six-hour interview with police after his arrest, which wasn’t tape recorded or videotaped but summarized by an investigator in a 27-page report, McCowen gave differing accounts but at one point said he had sex with Worthington at her house on 50 Depot Road, according to the report, but he denied killing her. McCowen has always maintained he did not kill Worthington.

But Worthington’s gruesome murder became the highest profile case to hit the Cape in decades at the time.

Prior to McCowen’s arrest in April 2005, three years after Worthington’s death, investigators had made the controversial move of asking every man in the community to voluntarily submit a DNA sample. The DNA dragnet brought the case national attention, and by the time McCowen walked into the small, one-room courthouse of the Superior Court in Barnstable County for his murder trial in October 2006, the place was mobbed with reporters and satellite trucks.

But in addition to being McCowen charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary for Worthington’s death, prosecutors also added a surprising third charge: Aggravated rape.

“This case became a case, not only of murder, but rape, only when and after they had arrested a black man,” said Peter Manso, who wrote the book, “Reasonable Doubt: The Fashion Writer, Cape Cod and The Trial of Chris McCowen,” and worked as a consultant on this story for ABC News. Manso covered McCowen’s 2006 trial and believes McCowen didn’t receive a fair trial.

On Oct. 23, 2006, McCowen, then 34 years old, stood before a judge and pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

“I wasn’t surprised by the armed house invasion [charge], and I wasn’t surprised by the murder indictments. What I was surprised by was the rape indictment,” said Bob George, who was McCowen’s defense attorney during his 2006 trial.

In a case like this with so many layers, from socioeconomic divides to issues of race to the media attention, George said he did his best to find a jury that could fairly judge McCowen.

“Different lawyers look for different types of juries,” George told ABC News. “The type of jury I needed and the type of jury that I wanted to get was a working-class jury.”

But getting that jury, George said, isn’t always easy.

“You always want people who have been accused of crime on a jury so they understand the way the system works, and should work and shouldn’t work,” he said. “And the trouble with picking this jury was that. As much as people want to believe that Cape Cod is this gorgeous, resort-like community where everybody has money… it really is a community where people are working just as hard to try to pay the bills as anywhere else, especially the off-season crowd.”

George said “self-employed people,” single parents or people with any kind of criminal record are often not picked for jury duty because they are “sole supporters.”

“So you lose all of those jurors,” he said. “And here I am defending Chris McCowen, an African-American male from Key West, and I’m looking for people of color on the jury, or people who are working-class jurors, and I’m losing most of them because most of them cannot serve.”

George paid particular attention to whether potential jurors had any racial prejudice, but also whether they had any thoughts about whether someone could falsely confess to a crime — the trial ended up focusing on the reliability of the report of McCowen’s interview with police on the night of his arrest.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Welsh III presented the prosecution’s case.

“The Welshes, we are now in the fourth generation of Welsh family judges on Cape Cod,” said author Peter Manso. “We’re talking about going back to the early, what, 1900s, I guess… Rob Welsh Sr., presided over the Second District Court in Orleans. Rob Welsh, Sr.,’s father also had that same seat and originally served in Provincetown.”

To prosecute the Worthington case, Manso said, was a “huge opportunity” for the third Welsh.

“From the day he got out of Georgetown Law School, which is impressive, [he] was set on becoming the fourth Judge Welsh on Cape Cod,” Manso said.

Jury selection lasted two days, resulting in 12 jurors and four alternates being selected. Just two of the jurors, one man and one woman, were black, Manso said.

Once the jury was set, Cape Cod’s trial of the century began.

The prosecution’s case hammered home three main points. First, Assistant D.A. Welsh went over the brutality of the crime scene, showing jurors photos of Worthington’s body on the floor and the blood stains found inside the house.

Robert Lyon was an alternate juror for the McCowen trial and remembered the photos being “very graphic.”

“They added a certain gravity to the case,” Lyon said. “I think those photos helped to get the reality of the crime scene, to get the reality of a murder that was committed.”

Welsh called to the stand Tim Arnold, Worthington’s ex-boyfriend who found her body on Jan. 6, 2002, and called 911.

“There was blood around her head… her right leg was up, her knee was up in the air,” Arnold testified. “[Her legs were] somewhat spread apart.”

Second, the prosecution spent days going over the forensic evidence for the jury, calling to the stand both Robert Martin and Kenneth Martin, the two crime scene techs, no relation, who collected evidence at the scene, as well as the state police lieutenant who photographed the crime scene and Dr. Henry Nields, a pathologist who went on to become the state’s chief medical examiner.

Nields discussed Worthington’s autopsy, recalling for the jury various injuries on her body, including the gruesome details of her stab wound. But Neilds was not the one to perform Worthington’s autopsy. He was subbing in for Dr. James Weiner, who conducted the autopsy but was unable to testify due to illness. While on the stand, Nields simply read from Weiner’s notes.

Third, the prosecution moved on to forensic evidence that showed a match between McCowen’s DNA and DNA found on Worthington’s body, and called to the stand Massachusetts State Police Trooper Chris Mason, the investigator who wrote the 27-page report of his and Sgt. William Burke’s interview with McCowen after his arrest. Read Trooper Mason’s 27-page report here.

Mason testified for more than a day, going over the six-hour interview he and Burke had with McCowen after his arrest and detailing what he wrote in his report. Mason went over McCowen’s statements from his report, in which McCowen first said he didn’t know Worthington, then admitted that he had sex with her, then how McCowen said he was at Worthington’s house the Friday night before she was found dead with his friend, Jeremy Frazier, whom McCowen said was going through Worthington’s things, which lead to an argument and ended with both of them beating Worthington.

“He stated, ‘Jeremy lost it and I just followed suit. It was pandemonium,'” Mason testified, recalling McCowen’s statements from his report.

And Mason testified that McCowen stated it was Frazier who had stabbed Worthington.

McCowen’s defense attempted to not only poke holes in the prosecution’s case, but also present an entirely new timeline of events to show McCowen’s innocence.

“It wasn’t an easy trial,” George said. “I had planned to attack the validity and reliability of the [police] statement.”

Despite the fact that McCowen declined to have the interview he did with Mason and Sgt. Burke recorded, his former attorney Bob George criticized the fact that the pivotal, six-hour interview was reduced to just a 27-page summary.

“The statement is not worth the paper it’s written on,” George said in court, because, he argued, without a recording, there was no way of knowing exactly what was said.

Manso said, as an experienced reporter who always used a tape recorder, a six-hour interview should translate to 300 to 400 pages, not just 27.

George also argued in the court that the defense had concerns that McCowen’s low intelligence meant he was telling the police what he thought he wanted them to hear. To back this up, George called Dr. Eric Brown, a forensic pathologist who had testified in more than 200 trials.

“Having an IQ of 78 and being subjected to that kind of stressful, prolonged interview… makes him [McCowen] susceptible to manipulation,” Brown testified.

George also challenged whether the interview should have taken place at the time that it did, arguing that on top of McCowen’s inability to understand the gravity of his situation after he was under arrest, McCowen wasn’t even sober at the time. McCowen said he didn’t really remember the interrogation because he was under the influence of Percocet, cocaine and marijuana at the time.

“He was completely wasted when he was taken into that police station,” George argued in court.

A police report following McCowen’s arrest says four burnt joints were found in McCowen’s house and another police report says McCowen told officers he had taken two Percocet, an opioid pain reliever, for knee pain on the afternoon of his arrest.

All of this – the argument that McCowen wasn’t smart enough to understand what was happening, that he wasn’t sober at the time of the six-hour police interview and that the interview wasn’t recorded – was what George hoped would plant seeds of doubt in the jurors’ minds about McCowen’s statements to police.

“I thought that the investigation had been shaky,” George told ABC News. “I thought that McCowen’s mental and emotional condition lent itself to false confession.”

Attacking McCowen’s statement to police was key for his defense since during that interview, McCowen had placed himself at Worthington’s house around the time the prosecution said Worthington was killed.

The prosecution argued that Worthington had been killed roughly 24 to 36 hours before she was found at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2002, by Tim Arnold. The prosecution then coupled that with McCowen’s statement to police. The report from that interview said McCowen told police he arrived at Worthington’s house approximately 39 hours before her body was discovered, putting McCowen at Worthington’s home very near the estimated time of her death.

But George raised questions about how accurate that timeline was.

“I also thought that the time of death in the case was completely off the mark,” he told ABC News. “Now, if the time of death in the case is off the mark, then McCowen doesn’t need an alibi because he would be somewhere else at the time the crime is allegedly occurring, simply by the way the evidence was going to come in.”

George pressed Dr. Neilds, the pathologist who subbed in to review the autopsy report, about exactly when rigor mortis set in and what that said about Worthington’s time of death, arguing that because Worthington hadn’t been in full rigor, she couldn’t have died earlier than 8 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002.

Much of this forensic back-and-forth over the phases of rigor mortis, lividity, effects of temperature, and so on was very complicated and open to interpretation.

“It can be hard to fix the time of death because there are so many elements that will go into it, the weather conditions, the temperature, so no one can say really for sure,” said Beth Karas, an attorney and former Court TV correspondent who covered McCowen’s trial. “Sometimes there can be certain changes on the body that means it was within 24 hours. Here, Bob George says she wasn’t killed Friday night the way McCowen describes, but it’s really hard to determine.”

To further his scrutiny of the timeline, George presented a whole new scenario at trial, and one that he believed was largely ignored during the police investigation.

For one, George called Girard Smith, a Truro resident, to the stand. Smith said back in 2002, he would regularly go for walks in the neighborhood where Worthington lived. He said on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2002, around 12pm, one day before Worthington’s body was discovered, he was walking down Depot Road when something caught his attention.

“I could hear a car going at a very fast rate of speed because of the sand that it kicked up under the car,” Smith told ABC News. “I turned to see who was driving that car at such a fast rate, and the car came out… took a right turn and didn’t stop.”

“The driveway, as it turned out, was Christa Worthington’s driveway,” he added.

At trial, Smith testified that this happened around 1pm, not noon, but he said he was standing about 15 feet from a dark-colored car that bolted out of Worthington’s driveway and sped off.

“I think that the vehicle was large, and it was dark and… I didn’t pay attention to it, I just kept looking at the person,” he said.

And that person, he said, did not look like Chris McCowen. At trial, Smith testified that the driver of the car he saw was a man, “Caucasian… a little dark, but he was not black,” and Smith said this person had “an oval face” and “brown hair.”

About a week and a half later, Smith talked with then-Truro Police Chief John Thomas about what he saw that day. He then spoke with Trooper Mason three days later, on Jan. 19, 2002.

The information in the police report of Smith’s statements is largely consistent with what Smith testified to in court, though Mason had written that Smith said it was closer to 2 p.m. when he saw the vehicle. Smith said the police later showed him photos of cars, but he insisted that they should have been showing him photos of potential drivers.

“They kept saying, ‘Well, what did the car look like?’ And I kept saying, ‘I didn’t look at the car, I looked at the person driving it,'” Smith said. “They had their own way and that was it. I guess they just didn’t believe me or something like that.”

McCowen’s former attorney Bob George said investigators disregarded Smith’s testimony because “he wasn’t telling them something they wanted to hear.”

“Because it’s impossible to turn away from evidence like that when you have someone coming from the crime scene at a high rate of speed,” George said. “Smith is not some homeless junkie lying in the street who is imagining things because he’s out of his mind. This is someone who testified clearly at trial as to what he had seen.”

Either way, if Smith’s story was to be believed, then the scenario was troubling.

“The thing that bothered me was obviously later, the individual had seen the carnage, had left this baby with her mother, in this blood, and everything,” Smith said. “That’s the thing that bothered me more than anything else.”

In addition to his challenges with the state’s timeline, George also focused on the autopsy report, narrowing in on the fact that despite all the injuries Worthington suffered, the autopsy report did not specify that there had been a sexual assault.

“There is no evidence of any violent sexual contact with the victim in this case in the form of injury, is there?” George asked Nields on the stand.

“There is no report of injury, right, that’s correct,” Nields responded.

The medical examiner’s report doesn’t mention that Worthington was raped and there is nothing to suggest that her body was violently sexually assaulted, said former FBI profiler and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett.

“But the police and prosecutors make a presumption that if you find somebody that’s nude… from the waist down, there’s been a murder, and there’s signs of DNA in or around her, that a sexual assault occurred, and that with this type of murder, that is not consensual, so that’s how they get to rape,” Garrett said.

So in challenging the prosecution’s argument that a sexual assault had occurred, George proposed a new scenario to the jury: McCowen had never been in Worthington’s house overnight Friday into Saturday, as the police report of his interview says, but instead that McCowen had gotten his days mixed up, and he was at Worthington’s house on Thursday, and that’s when he had sex with her.

In McCowen’s statement to police, he mentioned having a conversation with Worthington about getting rid of her Christmas tree. Trooper Mason also corroborated these statement when he testified on the stand. Mason’s report also says McCowen told him he had a conversation with Worthington about her Christmas tree on the same night that McCowen said he and Frazier went up to Worthington’s house and that’s when he had sex with her and claims Frazier killed Worthington.

But George would argue, McCowen got his days wrong.

“Chris McCowen’s version of his relationship with Christa Worthington was that of one-time event with a customer on his route that previous Thursday,” George said. “That’s what he described to me.”

McCowen trash route would take him by Worthington’s house on Thursdays. So George said that it was on the Thursday before she was found dead that she invited McCowen into her house to look at her Christmas tree and that’s when they had sex. To back this up, George pointed to a call he said was placed by McCowen from inside Worthington’s house that Thursday, and the forensic evidence.

Don Horton, who was McCowen’s boss at Cape Cod Disposal, said he got a call from McCowen one day while McCowen was on his route, and said McCowen told him he was at Worthington’s house and wanted to know about how to dispose of her Christmas tree.

Horton said he couldn’t be sure of the day, but it was one of Worthington’s regular pick-up days, which was on Thursdays.

“He [McCowen] called me and he asked, he says, ‘She has a Christmas tree, what should I do? Should I take it?'” Horton said. “Chris was in the wrong truck because I had little rubbish trucks and I told him, I said, ‘We will get it on Monday when we go into Provincetown to do the recycling. We’ll just stop there on the way back is she wants us to and pick it up then.'”

In addition to McCowen’s claim that he was at Worthington’s on Thursday and his former attorney Bob George says Horton backed up that statement, George also pointed out that McCowen’s fingerprints were never found at the crime scene and while investigators found hairs, they never found any that were consistent with belonging to an African-American. The only DNA evidence tying McCowen to the scene was the DNA found on Worthington’s body. But George said the sperm sample police collected was so degraded that it could have been there for days before Worthington’s death.

“There were no fingerprints, there were no footprints, there was nothing in the house that indicted Chris McCowen was there, other than the seminal fluid,” George said.

All of this served as an attempt to create a bigger valley between when McCowen had sex with Worthington and when she died.

As part of his defense, McCowen’s former attorney also offered alternative theories of who may have committed the murder, including Jeremy Frazier, the man who McCowen blamed for the murder in his statement to police, who ended up testifying on behalf of the prosecution at McCowen’s trial.

“In all the trials I have covered… I don’t remember a prosecution witness ever sending up red flags like Jeremy Frazier did,” said Amalia Berreda, a former reporter for ABC’s Boston affiliate WCVB who covered McCowen’s trial. “Jeremy Frazier’s testimony was like an early Christmas present for the defense.”

Frazier testified he was at The Juice Bar with his friend Shawn Mulvey and McCowen for a rap contest on the Friday before Worthington’s body was found. Just like in his interview with police, Frazier said they left the bar and went to a party, where a fight broke out and everyone was kicked out. Frazier said he and Mulvey then went to Mulvey’s father’s house and were there the rest of the night. Frazier said he didn’t know what happened to McCowen.

But under cross examination from George, Frazier made a startling admission – Frazier testified at McCowen’s trial that he didn’t remember where he had gone after leaving The Juice Bar “until they fed me pieces of information [about] where I was that night,” Frazier testified.

When George asked him who had been feeding him pieces of information, Frazier responded with, “the state police.”

Frazier said under oath that the police helped refresh his memory about where he was that night, but he denied ever going to Worthington’s house or having anything to do with her death. His friend Mulvey backed up Frazier’s story that he was with him all night.

“Jeremy was probably the most intoxicated out of everybody,” Mulvey testified at McCowen’s trial. “So I told him to come with me.”

Police believe McCowen went over to Worthington’s house by himself. But McCowen’s former attorney Bob George questioned Mulvey at trial about his story, asking if he was so sure Frazier was with him all night, why didn’t he initially back up Frazier’s alibi when police first talked to him.

Mulvey had initially told police he didn’t remember anything from that night, and George asked him at trial, “So was that a lie?”

“In the first statement, yes,” Mulvey said, saying he had told police that because he had been acting on his father’s advice to not get involved.

Mulvey now lives in Florida but declined ABC News’ requests for an interview or comment on this story.

The jury was instructed to only weigh the evidence outlined in the case, but some saw the case as a broader challenge about assumptions and prejudice.

“As soon as they see the black garbage man, it’s rape, because [the prosecution argues] this woman would never have had sex with a garbage man unless it’s rape,” George told the court during trial.

The prosecution maintains to this day that the evidence against McCowen, and him alone, was “overwhelming,” and that it didn’t matter that McCowen was black.

“Mr. George has tried to play the race card during this trial and said that the police couldn’t accept the idea of consensual sex between a black garbage man and Christa Worthington,” Assistant D.A. Robert Welsh said during closing arguments. “And I would suggest to you this defendant would be facing the same evidence and the same trial if he were white.”

Sixteen days after the start of the trial, the jury was given the case.

“We really didn’t have a sense of how long this was going to take, but it took longer than I thought it would,” Barreda said.

In the end, the jury deliberated for eight days – and one juror was dismissed over phone calls she made to her boyfriend talking about the case before the verdict came in.

When it was announced that the jury had reached a verdict, Barreda said everyone “stampeded” to the courtroom and waited. Then it was announced.

On Nov. 16, 2006, Chris McCowen was found guilty on all three counts of first-degree murder, rape and aggravated burglary.

“I went into closing argument believing I had, at the very least, a case of reasonable doubt,” his former attorney Bob George told ABC News. “After the verdict was delivered, McCowen, of course, was devastated and he started to cry.”

McCowen never testified at his trial, but at his sentencing, the court heard from him for the first time when he read a statement. McCowen said in his statement that he felt sorry for the Worthington family, for what had happened to Worthington and her daughter, “but all this time I’ve been innocent.”

A statement was also read on behalf of Amyra Chase, Worthington’s friend who won custody of Worthington’s daughter Ava after her death.

“I know I will, throughout Ava’s life, witness over and over again that Christa was robbed of the privilege and delight of raising her daughter,” the statement said.”But today I know that Ava will be an even stronger person, firm in the knowledge of all of those who supported her mother, Christa.”

McCowen was given three life sentences, one for each of the charges he was convicted on, without the possibility of parole.

“In Massachusetts, unlike other states, conviction on first-degree murder is life without parole. You die in prison,” George said.

But just a day after McCowen’s guilty verdict, George received a call from one of the jurors, who voiced concerns about the deliberation process. Over the next few days, two more jurors also came forward with similar complaints.

“Three particular jurors that contacted me… believed that there was racial bias… in the jury deliberations,” George said. “I immediately filed a motion to set aside a verdict as a result of racial bias in the jury room.”

The three jurors signed affidavits, which included allegations that racist comments were made during deliberations, that some jurors had already made up their minds on McCowen’s guilt before deliberations began.

One of the jurors who signed an affidavit was the sole black female on the panel. Author and consultant Peter Manso recorded an interview with that juror, whose identity we are not revealing, for his 2011 book, “Reasonable Doubt.”

“I would say the first day, as soon as we get in there, the first thing I say… just to see how everybody’s thinking, my words to them was, ‘So guys,’ I say, ‘Let’s just see where we stand here.’ I said, ‘Who all thinks this man is guilty,’” the juror said to Manso. “And so I get some hands raised, like probably five, six… and then I said, ‘Now who thinks not guilty?’ Like probably two.”

The juror said a couple of people didn’t raise their hands at all, but she said she told them, “We haven’t even begun to deliberate and you people already think this man is guilty.”

At one point, the juror said that another female juror stood up and “screamed at the top of her lungs, ‘Yes, if this big, black man beat this lady the way they said, she would have these same marks.’ I said, ‘What the hell does black got to do with it?'”

Other jurors, like Robert Lyon said race didn’t play a role in their decision.

“Race did not play a part at all in deciding his guilt,” he said. “It had no effect on the verdict.”

For Lyon, McCowen’s differing accounts of what happened and the DNA match were crucial.

“The DNA put Christopher McCowen at the crime scene,” Lyon said. “It put an approximate time he was there at the crime scene. There’s no altering that.”

To sort whether racial bias played a role in the jury’s verdict, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson, the same judge who oversaw the trial, made a rare move and held a post-trial hearing to look back at how the jury reached their verdict.

Each of the jurors were called in to testify about their deliberation process. George said it took about four or five days of hearings to get through every juror, and then a couple of months later, in early 2007, Judge Nickerson announced his decision that no racial bias had been found. George’s motion to throw out the verdict was denied.

“[Then] it went up as part of the appeal, and it was denied on appeal,” George said.

Lyon said he still hasn’t changed his opinion of the verdict.

“Christopher McCowen is the man who committed the murder, there is absolutely no evidence that anyone else did it,” Lyon said. “I still believe as strongly as I did then that he was the man who committed the crime.”

But for the juror who spoke with Manso, she said the experience changed her forever.

“For me to come in here, to be so naïve to think these are some nice people during the trial, and day one, I start to see true colors,” she told him. ‘I didn’t think racism still existed this way. I never thought I would personally experience this.”

In fact, her experience of being on this jury was so upsetting, Manso said this juror moved her family away from the Cape. She declined ABC News’ requests for comment or an interview.

Since his 2006 conviction, McCowen has had one appeal and three motions for a new trial denied. Now, armed with a new defense attorney, McCowen is hoping to get new evidence that could warrant a new trial and overturn his conviction.

“There were a number of items that were not tested, but one of them was fibers,” said McCowen’s current defense attorney Gary Pelletier. “Those need to be tested.”

And for the first time, McCowen is ready for his side of the story to be heard.

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