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University of Maryland Closes Investigation into Racist Email, Finds No Policy Violation

sframephoto/iStock/Thinkstock(COLLEGE PARK, Md.) -- The University of Maryland has finished an investigation into an email containing racist and sexist language sent by a student that went viral earlier this year.

The email had been sent to members of the student's fraternity last year, and according to a statement from university President Wallace Loh, condoned non-consensual sexual conduct. Investigators said that the email, "while hateful and reprehensible," Loh wrote, "did not violate University policies and is protected by the First Amendment."

Still, Loh said that the email "is profoundly hurtful to the entire University campus...caused anger and anguish, pain and fear, among many people." He also said that the email "subverts our core values of inclusivity, human dignity, safety, and mutual respect."

Loh wrote that the student in question apologized for his actions, saying that he "[regrets] sending that email more than I'll ever be able to put into words" and that "there is no way to erase this incident or the agony is has caused."

The student offered to undergo individualized training in diversity and cultural competence and perform extensive community service, Loh added. The student will not return to the campus for the spring semester.

Last month, the Kappa Sigma fraternity acknowledged that the student was a member of their organization when the email was sent. He was later suspended by the fraternity and eventually submitted a letter of resignation.

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Convicted Murderer Escapes from Illinois Prison

DanHenson1/iStock/Thinkstock(KANKAKEE, Ill.) -- A convicted murderer escaped from a detention center in Illinois on Wednesday morning.

According to the Kankakee County Sheriff's Department, Kamron Taylor, 23, overpowered a correctional officer and took the officer's keys and uniform at about 3 a.m. Wednesday at the Jerome Combs Detention Center. Taylor is believed to have fled the jail and stolen the officer's vehicle.

A statement from the sheriff's department said that the vehicle Taylor is believed to have stolen was located at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Taylor, described as a black man about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 170 pounds, is considered armed and dangerous.

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Investigation Underway After Noose Found on Duke University Campus

File photo. Stockbyte/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.C.) -- An investigation is underway on the campus of Duke University after a noose was found hung on the Bryan Center plaza, where the office of the Vice President of Student Affiars, among other offices, are located.

Larry Moneta, Vice President of Student Affairs, addressed Duke students in a letter sent out on Wednesday, describing the "disgust and anger" that he felt when he learned of the incident. "Though it has since been removed, the photos are everywhere and its hateful message will sadly pervade and persist for a long time," he wrote.

Moneta called the hanging of the noose a "hateful and stupid act." He vowed that the Duke community, however, would not allow the incident to create fear.

"Today, fear will be among the reactions students, and especially, students of color, will have," he acknowledged. "Be assured that the Duke community will provide all the support necessary to help us all get through this. In time, each of these cowardly acts of bias and hatred will strengthen our resolve to love and support each other."

Moneta said that anyone who is identified as responsible for the "act of intimidation" will be "held fully accountable."

The Duke People of Color Caucus, a group formed about two weeks ago after students allegedly chanted a racist song at a black female student, posted to its Tumblr account urging "all black students, staff, faculty, and/or Durhamites on campus and in the area" to "take care of yourselves and each other."

"This campus is not a safe space, and has proven beyond any doubt that it is a hostile environment for any and all black people," the group added.

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Second Victim of NYC Building Collapse Identified

FDNY(NEW YORK) -- The second victim of the East Village building explosion last week in New York City has been positively identified, New York City officials said Wednesday.

Using DNA analysis, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that Moises Ismael Locon Yac is the second victim of the tragedy. Yac was a restaurant employee who witnesses had said was in the kitchen area at the time of the explosion.

An investigation into the building collapse remains ongoing.

A New York Police Department official had previously identified the other victim as Nicholas Figueroa.

Twenty-two people were injured in the explosion and building collapse.

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Washington, DC Police Arrest Suspect in Lawyer's Murder

Obtained by ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Police in Washington, D.C., Wednesday arrested a woman in connection with the killing of a lawyer who was found stabbed to death inside a district hotel room.

Police charged Jamyra Gallmon, 21, with first-degree felony murder while armed in connection with the death of David Messerschmitt. His body was found inside a room at the Donovan Hotel on Feb. 10.

Messerschmitt, 30, had sent a text message to his wife the day before his body was discovered, saying he'd be home in an hour, said police. But when the newlywed didn't return to his home in Capitol Hill, his wife, Kim Vuong, filed a missing persons report.

Police didn't say what evidence led investigators to charge Gallmon.

Last week, Vuong asked for help finding her husband's alleged killer, saying she had lost her "husband and best friend."

"In one day, I lost the most important person in my life and the man I loved so much," she said.

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Getty Heir Had 'Several Health Issues' at Time of Death, Police Say

Andrew Getty/Facebook(LOS ANGELES) -- Andrew Getty, the grandson of oil billionaire J. Paul Getty, was suffering from several undisclosed health issues at the time of his death, a police spokeswoman said Wednesday.

"At this time, it appears as though he died of natural causes but the coroner will obviously make that determination in their final report," Det. Meghan Aguilar told ABC News.

Craig Harvey, the chief of investigations for the coroner's office, told ABC News that Getty has not yet been examined by the medical examiner -- that will happen either Thursday or Friday.

Harvey went on to say that preliminary observations do not indicate trauma or foul play.

"I also suspect that the final cause of death will be deferred and additional toxicology or tissue studies will be ordered that could result in any final ruling being delayed for six to eight weeks or more," Harvey said.

Police responded to Getty's home at around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a call for an ambulance from an unidentified woman. Police are not investigating the case in a criminal capacity because the cause of death has not yet been officially determined, authorities said.

Getty's father, Gordon Getty, is one of industrialist J. Paul Getty's five sons. J. Paul Getty was once considered the richest man in the world.

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Suspect in Custody After Fort Hood Officials Receive Verbal Threat

Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images(FORT HOOD, Texas) -- Officials at Fort Hood in Texas say they responded to a verbal threat from a soldier on Wednesday afternoon.

A statement from the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office on Wednesday said that officials received a call at about 1:30 p.m. local time about a verbal threat issued by a soldier. "Directorate of Emergency Services officials took appropriate measures to secure the post and currently have a suspect in custody," the statement noted.

Fort Hood is not under lockdown, though the situation is under further investigation. There were no details immediately made public about the suspect.

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UVA Student Newspaper Apologizes for April Fools Day Article Satirizing Martese Johnson Incident

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- The managing board of the Cavalier Daily, the campus newspaper at the University of Virginia, apologized on Wednesday for an ill-advised April Fool's Day joke that poked fun at a recent incident in which Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents allegedly injured a student, Martese Johnson, while arresting him.

The front page of Wednesday's issue featured an article, apparently an attempt at satire, headlined "ABC agents tackle Native American student outside Bodo's Bagels." The subheader read "University students decry 'Trail of Schmears.'"

The paper's managing board issued a swift apology, saying that that article, as well as a second entitled "Zeta Psi hosts 'Rosa Parks' party," were removed from the newspaper's website.

"The April Fools editions [are] meant to start a converastion and provide satirical commentary on important issues," the managing board wrote in a statement. "The April Fools edition is not meant to come at the expense of our peers. We neglected to foresee that these pieces would come across as the latter, and for that, we regret their publication."

Their statement reiterated the Cavalier Daily's mission of providing "the University community with new, relevant and insightful information that inspires critical conversation and even action on Grounds. Today's April Fools edition was meant to further this mission in a humorous and satirical manner," they wrote. "Unfortunately, we fell short of this goal today."

The university has dealt with multiple controversies in recent months. Besides the incident involving Virginia ABC agents and Martese Johnson in March, the school was also the subject of a scathing Rolling Stone magazine report detailing an alleged on-campus sexual assault. The magazine has since backtracked on the story, and Charlottesville Police recently announced that they had found no evidence of the alleged rape.

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Calif. Governor Announces New Water Restrictions as Drought Worsens

NASA(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced a set of mandatory water conservation measures on Wednesday, as the state continues to struggle with a prolonged drought that has lasted for more than four years.

"Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow," Brown said in a statement after visiting a manual snow survey in the Sierra Nevadas. "This historic drought demands unprecedented action."

For the first time in the state's history, the governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions across California, in an effort to reduce water usage by 25 percent. The measures include replacing 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping, banning the watering of grass on public street medians, requiring agricultural water users to report their water use to state regulators, and requiring large landscapes such as campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to make significant cuts in water use.

The governor’s announcement comes just a few weeks after NASA’s top water scientist, Jay Famiglietti, declared in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that California only had a year's-worth of water supply left in its reservoirs.

The last four years have been the driest in California’s recorded history. As of March 24, more than 98 percent of California is suffering from abnormally dry conditions, with 41.1 percent in an exceptional drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor, which estimates that more than 37 million Californians have been affected by the drought.

The state’s snowpack, which is largely responsible for feeding the state’s reservoirs, has been reduced to 8 percent of its historical average, and in some areas in the Central Valley, the land is sinking a foot a year because of over-pumping of groundwater for agriculture.

In January 2014, Brown declared a state of emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. The announcement was quickly followed with the launch of a website,, aimed to help Californians make reductions in water use. Tips include everything from reducing shower time to planting drought-resistant trees and plants.

“We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” the governor said in his January statement. “At some point, we have to learn to live with nature, we have to get on nature’s side and not abuse the resources that we have.”

Californians use an average of 181 gallons of water each day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The winter wet season was a big disappointment for water conservationists. Half of the state’s annual rainfall usually arrives in December, January and February, and although there were brief stormy periods, California recorded less rain in January than any January before it: less than two inches.

In March, the state announced emergency legislation to fast-track more than $1 billion in funding for drought relief and water infrastructure projects, after the State Water Board released a report outlining a steep decline in water conservation during the month of January.

California is not the only state struggling with drought. In Nevada, the Lake Tahoe Basin’s snowpack is reported to be at 3 percent of its normal average, prompting the primary water provider in the Reno-Sparks area to urge customers to cut water use by 10 percent on Tuesday.

In Texas, more than half the state is currently suffering under abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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NYPD Cop Who Berated Uber Driver Is Under Internal Review

Sanjay Seth/YouTube(NEW YORK) -- A video showing a police detective berating an Uber driver in New York City has gone viral, and the NYPD said the video is under review by the Internal Affairs Bureau and that it will also be investigated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The officer in the video, identified as NYPD Detective Patrick Cherry, will be transferred out of his post with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Police Commission William Bratton said Wednesday.

Bratton also offered an apology to the Uber driver and the passengers for the detective's actions during the encounter.

Bratton also called the anger that the officer displayed "unacceptable." The commissioner added that "discourtesy like that and language like that is unacceptable. That officer's behavior reflected poorly on everyone who wears our uniform."

In the video, the detective stands at the driver's door, shouting, "Do you understand me? I don't know what [expletive] planet you think you're on right now."

Sanjay Seth confirmed to ABC News that he was a passenger in the car when the incident occurred on the West Side Highway, and that he took the video with his cellphone.


Testifying at Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) tomorrow to jump-start the independent investigation into yesterday's Uber incident.

— Sanjay Seth (@sanjayseth) March 31, 2015


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier, "There’s just no place for any public servant to use discriminatory or negative language."

The driver remains calm in the video and does not raise his voice to the detective. At one point, the detective slams the driver's door closed.

The incident began when the Uber driver honked at the detective's car after the detective was apparently trying to park without using his blinker, Seth said, and the Uber driver wanted to make it through the green light.

When the detective walks away for a moment after berating the driver, the passenger who is videotaping says, "That's crazy. That's really inappropriate."

Another passenger says, "Abuse of power, obviously."

The detective comes back and continues, "Now let me tell you something the next time you do it again."

The driver interrupts and says, "Okay."

The detective yells, "Okay what? You don't let me [expletive] finish? Stop interrupting me!"

The driver apologizes to the detective.

The detective then says, "Who do you think you're talking to here? ... Every time I open my mouth you have something to say."

The detective ends with saying, "The only reason you're not in handcuffs going to jail ... is because I have things to do, that's the only reason that's not happening."

The Uber driver was never given a ticket, police said.

Seth testified before the CCRB Wednesday. If it finds the complaint against Cherry legitimate, the detective would get a mark on his record, but it is up to Commissioner Bratton to determine a punishment. Verbal abuse in and of itself is not a terminable offense, according to police sources. A CCRB judge would first have to find Cherry guilty of misconduct and then that decision would get forwarded to the commissioner, who can accept or reject. Punishment for such matter could include losing pay or vacation days.

Uber responded to the incident with a statement.

"The behavior in the video is wrong and unacceptable and we appreciate the NYPD investigating the incident. We are in touch with our driver-partner who was subjected to this terrible experience and will continue to provide any support he needs," Uber told ABC's New York station WABC-TV.

Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, noted he is "not trying to minimize the significance of what occurred."

"I am simply pointing out that cops are just like everyone else," Palladino added. "They have families, friends, and other things going on in their lives, too, that may affect their behavior at times. There is no disputing that we are held to a higher standard and that is why this incident is so newsworthy. Detective Cherry is a person of good character and an excellent Detective. He really should not be judged by one isolated incident."

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NC Teen Writes Rejection Letter to Duke University's Rejection Letter

ABC News(DURHAM, N.C.) — Spring is here along with the angst of the college admissions process for high school seniors everywhere.

One North Carolina teenager decided to fight back with a rejection letter to the rejection letter she said she received from Duke University.

“Dear Duke University Admissions,” the letter written by 17-year-old Siobhan O’Dell begins. “Thank you for the rejection letter of March 26, 2015. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me admission into the Fall 2015 freshman class at Duke.”

“This year I have been fortunate enough to receive rejection letters from the best and brightest universities in the country. With a pool of letters so diverse and accomplished I was unable to accept reject letters I would have been able to only several years ago,” she continues.

The teenager ends the letter with: "Therefore I will be attending Duke University's 2015 freshmen class. I look forward to seeing you then."

O’Dell posted the letter on Tumblr, where it quickly drew the Internet’s attention and drew calls for Duke University to reconsider her application.

Unfortunately for O’Dell, going viral did not equal a spot in Duke’s freshman class. O’Dell also posted to Tumblr on Tuesday the response she says Duke officials sent to her rejection to the rejection email.

“I understand how disappointed you are that we were unable to offer you a space in our incoming class,” the note reads. “I want to be honest with you and let you know that it’s very rare that we learn something that leads us to change our decision. In the last 10 years we’ve received about 500 requests for a review…and changed the decision four times.”

Duke’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Cristoph Guttentag, had no comment on O’Dell’s application when reached by ABC News.

The Durham, North Carolina-based school’s loss may be another college’s gain. O’Dell, who did not reply to ABC News, posted on her Instagram account that she has already been accepted to the University of South Carolina.
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Total Lunar Eclipse Will Be Shortest in a Century

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Don't press the snooze button for this one.

The total lunar eclipse set to take over the skies on Saturday will be the shortest in a century, lasting five minutes and turning the moon red, according to NASA.

The sky spectacle will be visible from all parts of the United States, with people in the eastern part of the country seeing the beginning stages of the partial umbral eclipse before sunrise at 6:16 ET.

The total eclipse will be visible to people in the Western United States at 7:58 PT. At this time, the moon will turn a shade of blood red as it skims the outskirts of Earth's shadow.

The eclipse is the third in a tetrad, a series of four eclipses. The fourth is set for Sept. 28, 2015.

The best part of all for Saturday's phenomenon: No telescope is needed. If you're in an area with visibility, all you'll need to do is step outside to enjoy the view -- that is, if you can catch it in time.

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Gary Dahl, Inventor of the Pet Rock, Dead at 78

File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Ore.) — Gary Dahl, the inventor of the Pet Rock, has died, The New York Times reports. He was 78.

Dahl’s wife, Marguerite Dahl, confirmed that her husband had passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Jacksonville, Oregon, on March 23.

While working as a freelance copywriter in Northern California, Dahl came up with the idea for the Pet Rock, first as a joke. It turned out to be one of the great fads of the 1970s that also happened to make him rich.

Backed by two investors, Dahl bought smooth Mexican beach stones for a penny apiece and then worked up packaging that looked like a carrying case along with instructions on the proper care and feeding of the Pet Rock.

The Pet Rock hit stores around the 1975 Christmas season and within months, Dahl sold 1.5 million of them, eventually earning a whopping $15 million from his venture.

Other inventions he came up with, like the Original Sand Breeding Kit, weren’t as lucrative. While Dahl trademarked the Pet Rock name, it didn’t stop copycats from getting in on the action with their own versions of his idea.

Years later, Dahl returned to copywriting and admitted that things hadn’t exactly turned out the way he planned even though the Pet Rock made him very wealthy.

Dahl is survived by his third wife, Marguerite, several children and seven grandchildren.

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Andrew Getty, Grandson of J. Paul Getty, Found Dead at Home

John Roman/iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Andrew Getty, the 47-year-old grandson of the late billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, was found dead at his Hollywood Hills home Tuesday under what appear to be mysterious circumstances.

There had been reports that police had detained Getty's ex-girlfriend for questioning. On Wednesday morning, police said that no one was in custody in connection with Getty's death.

Two weeks ago, Getty had sought a restraining order against the same woman, according to the Los Angeles Times.  TMZ also reports that police responded to domestic disturbances at Getty's residence involving the couple on multiple occasions.

Police also said that the investigation would be a coroner's investigation for the time being, as there had not yet been a determination of what caused Getty's death.

Getty's family is worth $5 billion, making them the 54th wealthiest family in the U.S., according to Forbes magazine.

Gordon Getty, the deceased's 81-year-old father, is believed to have a net worth of $2.1 billion.

Although it's been decades since J. Paul Getty was at or near the top of the list of the richest men in the nation, he did make his fortune from Getty Oil, which came from the merger of several companies. J. Paul Getty died in 1976.

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After Just Six Hours, Defense Rests in Boston Bombing Trial

FBI(BOSTON) -- In the Boston Marathon bombing trial the prosecution took 92 witnesses and more than three weeks to present their case, but on Tuesday, the defense for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rested after just four witnesses and about six hours.

Weeks ago during opening statements defense attorney Judy Clarke admitted to Tsarnaev’s role in the bombing and the violent aftermath, but argued it was Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan who was primarily responsible for the mayhem nearly two years ago, in April 2013. In the six hours she used Tuesday, Clarke focused on evidence that she said showed it was Tamerlan who “led the way.”

One witness, an FBI fingerprint analyst, told jurors that investigators found a fingerprint or fingerprints from Tamerlan Tsarnaev on a pressure cooker bomb lid recovered from Watertown, where the brothers engaged in a firefight with police days after the bombing, and on possible bomb-making supplies including rolls of tape, a caulking gun, a soldering gun, a jar of nails, and a book on DIY wiring all found in the Tsarnaev family home. None of those items, potential bomb components, had Dzhokhar's fingerprints.

The analyst also testified that 500 items were tested for fingerprints from the marathon bombing scenes, but only two items had recoverable fingerprints. Pieces of cardboard believed to be part of the first bomb contained prints belonging to Tamerlan, none to Dzhokhar. A shredded backpack also located at the scene contained a crumbled piece of paper that had Tamerlan's palm prints but, again, none belonging to Dzhokhar, the analyst said.

The prosecution fired back, however, saying that just because an item doesn't contain a fingerprint doesn't mean someone did not touch it. "They could've used gloves,” the government said.

Earlier Tuesday a computer forensic expert, testifying for the defense, said it was on Tamerlan's laptop that experts found the search terms "Ruger" "gun store" and "fireworks firing system,” but not on Dzhokhar's laptop. The brothers would use a Ruger 9mm pistol to allegedly murder a police officer three days after the marathon bombing.

That same expert testified that Tamerlan's computer showed searches for "Boston Marathon," but Dzhokhar's laptop didn't search that term until after the bombings.

The defense showed a digital trail that they said showed Tamerlan downloaded an issue of Inspire magazine to his computer, then transferred it to a thumb drive. That same thumb drive was used to transfer the Inspire copy to Dzhokhar's computer, the defense said. The magazine included an infamous bomb-making how-to article called “How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

A majority of searches on Dzhokhar's computer showed he was mostly on Facebook or a Russian social networking site, the defense said.

Clarke had said during opening remarks that while Tamerlan was “looking and immersed in death and destruction and carnage in the Middle East, Dzhokhar spent most of his time doing what teenagers do: Facebook, cars, girls.”

In another rebuttal, the prosecution argued that it is impossible to know who is using a computer unless there is a camera planted on it showing someone actively operating the device. On at least one occasion, the prosecution said, Dzhokhar did use Tamerlan's computer to log into his personal email account.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in the Watertown shootout three days after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding 260 others on April 15, 2013. Dzhokhar escaped the shootout but was captured hours later hiding in a dry-docked boat. Bleeding in the boat, he had allegedly scrawled a message implying the marathon bombing was revenge for the death of “innocent Muslims” in the Middle East.

Dzhokhar has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts related to the bombing, and, if convicted, he could face the death penalty.

At the end of Tuesday’s session, the judge announced the trial will take a break for a few days, with closing arguments starting next Monday.

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