Day: June 9, 2017

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Prosecutors rest their case at Bill Cosby's trial


Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Bill Cosby on Friday, saving until practically the very end the comedian’s damaging, decade-old testimony about giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.

The prosecution called 12 witnesses over five brisk days of testimony in the sexual assault case that could send the 79-year-old TV star to prison for the rest of his life. The defense will begin presenting its side on Monday.

Testifying under oath in 2005, Cosby said he obtained several prescriptions for quaaludes in the 1970s and offered the now-banned sedatives to others, “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink,'” according to the deposition read to the jury.

“When you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?” the comic once known as America’s Dad was asked.

“Yes,” he said.

Cosby is on trial on charges he drugged and sexually violated former Temple University women’s basketball team employee Andrea Costand, now 44, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He has said it was consensual.

In the deposition, which became public nearly two years ago, Cosby said he gave Constand three half-tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl. Prosecutors have suggested he gave her something stronger — perhaps quaaludes, a highly popular party drug in the 1970s that was banned in the U.S. in 1982.

Prosecutors evidently saved the quaalude testimony until the end for maximum effect. Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle, clearly wanting to move past Cosby’s talk about giving drugs to women, asked no questions about it on cross-examination.

The final prosecution witness, toxicologist Dr. Timothy Rohrig, testified that wooziness and other effects Constand described could have been caused by Benadryl or quaaludes.

Cosby smiled as he walked out of court at the end of the day, raising his wooden cane to salute well-wishers who yelled, “We love you, Bill Cosby!” and “Hey, hey, hey!,” the catchphrase from his “Fat Albert” TV show. He then waved from the back of an SUV.

The comedian gave the deposition as part of a lawsuit filed by Constand and later settled for an undisclosed sum. His testimony was sealed for years until portions were released by a judge in 2015 at the request of The Associated Press.

The release of the sensational testimony spurred Pennsylvania prosecutors to reopen their investigation and arrest Cosby a decade after the district attorney who originally investigated Constand’s complaint decided the case was too weak to bring charges.

For the jury, the deposition could be the closest it comes to hearing from Cosby himself, since he said recently that he did not intend to take the stand.

In his testimony, Cosby said he apologized to Constand’s mother over the telephone for the sexual encounter with her daughter because he was afraid she thought of him as “a dirty old man.”

“I apologized to this woman. But my apology was, my God, I’m in trouble with these people because this is an old man and their young daughter and the mother sees this,” he said.

Cosby also recounted offering to pay for graduate school for Constand. She turned him down.

Hoping to blunt one of Cosby’s main lines of defense, prosecutors put on the stand a psychologist who testified that victims of celebrities are often afraid to come forward because of the possible backlash. Constand did not go to police until a year after the alleged assault.

“If it’s a well-known person, the victim takes on a lot of responsibility for that person’s reputation, especially if that person is well-liked or beloved,” Veronique Valliere testified.

Cosby’s lawyers asked for a mistrial, complaining that Valliere was offering observations about Cosby even though she was only allowed to testify generally about victim behavior. The judge rejected the request.

In a barrage that all but destroyed Cosby’s good-guy reputation, some 60 women have come forward to say he sexually violated them, but the statute of limitations for prosecution had run out in nearly every case. Constand is the only woman whose allegations have resulted in criminal charges against the “Cosby Show” star.

During a break Friday, Cosby’s spokesman dangled the possibility the comic might testify after all. Cosby and his lawyer wouldn’t comment on that, and the defense has not disclosed its strategy or the witnesses it intends to call during its portion of the case.

Testifying would carry enormous risk for Cosby, exposing him to cross-examination about some of the lurid things in his deposition.

Cosby’s wife, Camille, has yet to be seen in court. Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said the TV star told her stay away so that she wouldn’t have to endure the “media circus.”

The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.

 



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NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson ready to race after cancer scare


Jimmie Johnson put the beer on ice and held a muted victory celebration. The morning after he hoisted another NASCAR trophy in victory lane, Johnson was in New York to have a form of skin cancer cut out of his right shoulder.

Johnson surprised the auto racing community Monday when he tweeted that he was on a table having a procedure to remove a basal-cell carcinoma, a common and slow-growing form of skin cancer. Growing up in Southern California, Johnson was always outdoors when he wasn’t out racing motorcycles.

“I could vividly remember a lot of sunburns,” Johnson said. “That sun exposure on a mole, there’s just consequences.”

In his first public comments about the cancer scare, Johnson told The Associated Press on Friday he was diagnosed in January. Johnson’s physician told the seven-time NASCAR champion during an annual checkup he had “a mole that was kind of changing shape.” A biopsy confirmed he had skin cancer, but it had not spread and it was not a more severe cancer such as melanoma.

“Carcinoma doesn’t spread. It doesn’t go to the glands,” Johnson said ahead of this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway. “They just have to dig it out and you’re good to go. Once I understood that, my reaction to the ‘C’ word calmed down.”

The 41-year-old Johnson, married with two daughters, was told he could wait until the end of the year to have the carcinoma removed. Johnson couldn’t wait that long. He knew he wanted it done in New York and the proximity to the track in Dover, Delaware, helped with the timing.

There was just one catch.

“When I explained to them I couldn’t be sweat free or activity free for as long as they hoped for recovery, it just got tricky on when I could time it,” he said. “I didn’t want to wait until the end of the season.”

After the procedure, Johnson waited about an hour for more lab work to make sure no additional cancerous cells were found. He was all clear, needed about 22 stitches and was out the door in about four hours.

The noted fitness freak was back on his bike on Wednesday and out for a run on Thursday. He was at the track on Friday and ready to race in the No. 48 Chevrolet.

“I’m not thinking about it,” he said. “I have full movement and I’m ready to get on the race track.”

Johnson has nearly 2.5 million Twitter followers and used treatment to spread the word on skin cancer.

“With the forum that I have, I felt an obligation to say something,” he said. “I hope there’s parents putting sunblock on their kids more now.”

Johnson put the small scare behind him and is ready to continue his chase in the NASCAR record book. He won his 83rd career Cup race last weekend and moved into a tie with Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the career victories list. Johnson grew up a huge fan of Yarborough and his race helmet was painted in tribute to him. Johnson and the 78-year-old Yarborough are the only drivers in NASCAR history to win three consecutive championships. He called Yarborough this week “on a landline at 2 p.m. sharp.”

“He shared is excitement, how much it really meant to him, it was so cool,” Johnson said. “I was already so excited. I didn’t know how he’d feel about it. He said his phone hadn’t stopped ringing. He connected with friends. The stories, it really opened the memory floodbank for him. It was so well deserved. I was so happy I was able to do that.”

Johnson, who won for the third time this season at Dover , is on a drive for a record eighth championship. Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison are next on the wins list with 84.

Who knows, Johnson may have another helmet painted in their honor for an upcoming race. Johnson drove the entire 10-race Chase last year with a tribute helmet to seven-time champs Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, the Hall of Fame drivers he had been chasing since he won his sixth title in 2013.

Johnson saw the mob that gathered Tony Stewart before his final NASCAR race and decided he would try and give the collector a helmet.

Immediately after the race, he gifted the helmet to Tony Stewart.

“I really wanted to keep it,” Johnson said, laughing.



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Reality Winner: Can the government prevent more intelligence leaks?


With just one arrest to date after months of damaging leaks traced to the intelligence community, Congress says it is looking at new safeguards to prevent more such breaches.

But in every case in recent history, extensive leaks or thefts of highly classified material have prompted new safeguards that have nevertheless failed to stop the problem. Most recently, 25 year-old security contractor Reality Winner was arrested for allegedly leaking a top-secret intelligence report on Russian interference in the U.S. election to an online news outlet.

Her case followed extensive leaks by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning and National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, as well as a lesser known case of alleged “intelligence hoarding” by a NSA contractor named Harold Martin III.

In Winner’s case, there were many clues the former Air Force linguist was deeply uncomfortable with Donald Trump as commander in chief. The Texas native was working for a private contractor in Augusta, Ga. when she tweeted about “the orange fascist we let in the White House” and called Attorney General Jeff Sessions a “Confederate General” who encourages racism.

Reality Winner: Accused leaker wanted to ‘burn the White House down’

She was sympathetic with Black Lives Matter, expressed concerns about climate change, and in a tweet aimed at Iran’s foreign minister, said: “There are many Americans protesting U.S. govt aggression towards Iran. If our Tangerine in Chief declares war, we stand with you!”

How such comments went unnoticed in a time when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is taking steps to scrutinize social media is still an open question. Neither ODNI nor Winner’s employer, Pluribus International, would comment on her case. 

Sources tell Fox News there is no current policy in place to monitor the social media of individuals like Winner who already have security clearances, or even question them about their social media presence when they renew their clearances.

Meanwhile, there are discussions in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about including new measures related to security clearances in next year’s Intelligence Authorization Act.  The committee would not get into specifics on the preliminary discussions.

Rosie O’Donnell: Reality Winner is a ‘brave young patriot,’ gives her $1000

“How is someone like Winner able to get and maintain a security clearance?” asked Morgan Wright, a senior fellow at the Center for Digital Government. “Have we not learned anything since Snowden?” 

The government’s policy on social media is fairly recent and focused on new applications for security clearances. “It may surprise people to know the government is only now codifying its approach to the virtual lives of the people it entrusts with real secrets,” William Evanina, a senior FBI agent, wrote in the Hill in May 2016.

Lawmakers pressed Evanina in hearings last year on whether the government would look too far into people’s social media worlds with the new policy.

“How do we flag the serious from the trivia?” asked Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Government Operations subcommittee. “How do we make sure we don’t have some enormous depository of government information?”

Evanina replied that the government would not keep musings, comments or opinions deemed irrelevant to a security clearance.

“Disqualifying a person from access to classified information solely because that person’s ideology is considered extreme, but not unlawful or a threat to the government, would be Constitutionally questionable,” said Robert Eatinger, former CIA Acting General Counsel, “It could violate the First Amendment.”  

Wright told Fox News the government right now is at an inflection point.

“When do we decide,” he asked, “your personal ideology hurts your ability to execute your oath of office to the United States of America?”

Reality Winner’s Twitter feed revealed her hostility to the president she had a duty to serve under the executive branch. Prosecutors are expected to argue that her motive was to bolster the narrative that Mr. Trump’s victory was illegitimate due to Russian interference in the vote.

Security experts say it’s time to look at similar ideologically motivated social media comments by individuals already possessing high-level security clearances.

Reality Winner: Woman accused of NSA leak ordered to remain jailed pending trial

“We’re turning people into folk heroes who 20 years ago would have been called traitors, by anybody left or right,” Wright said. “I don’t think she should get a free pass because of the First Amendment. When you get a security clearance you understand you’re going to go under certain scrutiny. That’s a fact of life. If you don’t it like it, too bad – you signed up for it.”

Wright said the Winner case should be a “red flag” for a new case study on how to monitor and detect government employees who may be prone to steal and pass on government secrets.

If there is reason to “question your loyalty to the commander in chief, it should trigger additional scrutiny. Especially people who have access to highly sensitive material,” Wright said.

But Eatinger, who is now in private practice at a firm called SpyLaw Consulting, said resisting a particular president is protected by the First Amendment.

“It is the method of resistance, if any, that would raise security concerns,” he said. ”Is the person resisting by committing unlawful acts or refusing to follow orders, or simply by wearing pink and marching on the Capital Mall?”



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WH social media director reprimanded for Hatch Act violation


White House social media director Dan Scavino has been reprimanded for violating federal law when he used Twitter to call for the defeat of a Michigan congressman, according to a letter sent this week by the Office of Special Counsel.

“OSC has concluded that his activity violated the Hatch Act. Accordingly, we issued Mr. Scavino a warning letter. In addition, we note that Mr. Scavino was recently counseled about the Hatch Act by the Office of the White House Counsel,” Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the OSC Hatch Act Unit, wrote on June 5.

Scavino was advised by OSC that any future violation would be considered “a willful and knowing violation of the law,

The reprimand is a response to an ethics complaint filed by the liberal ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Government (CREW) after Scavino and Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tussled on Twitter.

The April 1 violation occurred in the middle of an intense debate over repealing ObamaCare that pitted the Trump administration against Amash and other members of the Freedom Caucus.

Scavino took on Amash on Twitter, tweeting that he was a “huge liability.”

Amash responded in kind.

“The rules are clear that government officials aren’t allowed to use their position for campaign activity,” said Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s executive director, in a statement released today.

“OSC has made clear with this ruling that they are going to enforce these important rules and work to keep the government free from inappropriate politics,” he added.

CREW also filed a complaint against Amash for using his Congressional account to respond to the Trump administration official. The OSC declined to comment on whether a decision has been reached in that case.

Serafin Gomez conributed to this report.

 

 

 

 



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Former CIA contractor, former SEAL, falls through medical insurance loopholes


Matthew Wojciechowski, a fit and healthy retired U.S. Navy SEAL, was working as a contractor for the CIA’s Global Response Staff in a Middle East outpost. Suddenly on Dec. 21, 2011, he was struck with crippling chest pain and was soon shaking violently.

“I felt like I was going to die, and as an American citizen, I was trying to get some help,” he told Fox News. “But was told because I was a contractor I was under a different set of rules for care.”

So instead of being examined by a U.S. medical professional at the consulate, Wojciechowski said he was shocked that he was sent to a local hospital – and seen by a doctor who did not speak English – who misdiagnosed him simply as having heartburn.

As his condition worsened, Wojciechowski was finally sent home via a commercial flight, with no medical oversight. Some two weeks later, on Jan. 6, he was barely able to walk. In excruciating pain, he was soon rushed into open heart surgery and diagnosed with chronic, recurrent pericarditis. The serious heart condition, in which the tissue surrounding the heart becomes inflamed, typically develops from a viral or respiratory infection, but its initial cause is often hard to determine.

By law of the Defense Base Act (DBA), Wojciechowski assumed his health was covered, but receiving any help or compensation remains an ongoing nightmare with endless bills going to debt collections and life-saving prescriptions not paid for.

“My credit is so ruined I can’t even qualify for a Veteran’s Affairs (VA) loan,” he said, highlighting that he is continuing to fight his case with legal assistance. 

The DBA, a World War II era legislation, mandates that the U.S government and its overseas contractors must be provided with life insurance and workers compensation insurance. Yet Wojciechowski claims that his provider, the Continental Insurance of Chicago (CNA), is not paying up under the guise he contracted an illness abroad, and thus cannot be directly attributed to his line of work.

This week, his girlfriend Kristin Camacho set up a GoFundMe in the hopes of covering some of his medical bills.

“He has lost everything. We sold everything and we are still struggling to make ends meet,” she said.

The U.S. State Department, as well as CNA, did not respond to a request for comment.

The government has no obligation to take care of you as a contractor. That’s the tragic truth.

– Thomas Williams, former Blackwater officer

Wojciechowski’s case is far from unique. The precarious health coverage has increasingly become one of the silent perils of privatizing war. Contractors have played fundamental and often highly risky roles in several seemingly intractable U.S.-led wars against terrorism, from delivering fuel, weapons and aid to troops to guarding diplomats and bases to language interpretation and providing food and manual labor. Thousands have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been left with life-altering injuries.

In 2012, Frank Gallagher developed a “weird virus” while working as a security contractor in counterterrorism operations for the U.S. State Department in Pakistan. The former Force Reconnaissance Marine battled through as he was due to return home the following week. Back on U.S. soil, he learned that he had acquired the heart condition known as myocardiopathy and was urgently placed on the list for a heart transplant. Gallagher spent the next two weeks accumulating massive hospital bills as professionals purported to stabilize his health, only to learn that his insurer would not cover a dime of the expenses as he had not reported his illness in Pakistan.

But the horror was only beginning.

“It took over a year of fighting,” he told Fox News, adding that he was one of the few “lucky ones” who eventually prevailed and his medical costs covered only thanks to support from his state of Connecticut and the VA.

Some contractors fall back on their VA benefits – yet that system is far from reliable or accessible to all. And those who have retired from working as contractors have no TRICARE medical benefits, such as retired U.S. military personnel receive, if they haven’t served 20 or more years. Beyond that, some contractors undertaking these important roles have not worked for the military before.

In 2014, Willie Myers, a trained medic who was assigned to protect the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, endured a bruised vertebra and lost his ability to walk while preparing for a fitness test, but his claim was denied under the guise he was not in a “Zone of Special Danger.”

Myers, 52, who was contracting for International Development Solutions, said he remains confined to a wheelchair and although a judge finally awarded him the case in October, the insurance company has filed an appeal. 

“You shouldn’t have to fight to be taken care of,” Myers said. “Guys are getting injured and losing everything because the insurance companies are playing games.”

However, even those directly wounded have returned stateside to chronic battles just to get basic medical bills paid, prosthetic limbs to be made and psychological counseling to be covered. When patients fight back, they often must do so by hiring their own lawyers. The mediation or court process can extend from months to years. Many also return from combat with mental health afflictions like post-traumatic stress disorder, and coverage for treatment of such disorders often becomes a fight of its own.

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Although the issue is hardly new, it is still rarely raised by representatives and politicians, many U.S. military contractors say. A 2009 study revealed that insurance companies initially dismissed more than 40 percent of contractor’s war zone claims, despite collecting hundreds of millions in profits – effectively paid for by U.S. taxpayers – from their contracts with the government.

Thomas Williams, a former Blackwater officer, also cautioned that anyone mulling a supposedly big salary of a military contract should be well aware of the dark side before signing.

“You assume your commitment is reciprocated in the form of support; it isn’t. The DBA notwithstanding, the government has no obligation to take care of you as a contractor,” he added. “That is the tragic truth.”

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay



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High-speed 18-wheeler chase ends in fiery crash; driver barricaded in truck


A police chase of a speeding 18-wheeler truck ended with a fiery crash Friday afternoon in Arlington, Texas.

Early reports say that police in Fort Worth tried to stop the truck going eastbound on Interstate 30 but the driver didn’t stop, Fox 4 News reported.

The high-speed chase ended after the truck hit several vehicles before crashing on the side of the highway.

It is unclear if anyone was hurt.

Fox 4 News reported that officers had their guns drawn in the direction of the truck, indicating the suspect may be barricaded in the cab.

Police believe the truck might have been stolen.

Read more at Fox 4 News.



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Jerry Springer considering a run for Congress? Rumors are swirling


“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”

The infamous chant bellowed by the audience of “The Jerry Springer” when a man’s wife reveals that she is a prostitute – and actually not even a she — could soon be heard on the campaign trail in Ohio if rumors prove true.

Springer, a Democrat who believes he appeals to the same working class and rural voters that helped President Trump win the Buckeye state, and ultimately the White House, is considering a 2018 run for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, according to the Cincinnati Inquirer.

Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and a close friend of Springer, said that a phone poll was conducted in the region this week to gauge the longtime talk show host’s chances against incumbent Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup. Burke did not know any other details about the poll.

More on this…

Fox News did not hear back from spokespeople with “The Jerry Springer” show when asked for comment.

While rumors have swirled for years about Springer running for governor in Ohio, the former Cincinnati mayor has always denied that he would leave his television gig to return to life as an elected official. But Springer has recently headlined a number of Democratic fundraisers in Ohio’s 2nd District and confidants speculate that he could be looking to upset Wenstrup, who is currently in his third term, in 2018.

“A lot of people believe he has stepped up the amount of doing that this year,” Burke told the Inquirer. “I think that’s just his own personal reaction to Donald Trump. I think he’s feeling if Donald Trump can do it, why can’t I?”

A spokesperson for Wenstrup said that the congressman was aware of the poll, but said it would be a tall order to unseat the lawmaker. Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District spans numerous Appalachian counties and has been a Republican stronghold for decades.

“You can’t ignore anybody who is well known, but it would be a surprise to us if Jerry Springer has even been to all the counties in the 2nd District,” Mark Weaver, Wenstrup’s campaign spokesman, told the Inquirer. “Brad Wenstrup has deep ties and strong relationships with people in every corner in this district. It’s going to take more than a talk show to replace that type of connection.” 

Springer may so far be remaining quiet when it comes to the rumors, but the talk show host’s official Twitter account has recently been scathingly critical of the Trump administration. He slammed the president’s response to the London terror attacks and the exit of the Paris Climate Accord.

He also took out a full-page newspaper ad opposing the decision to repeal Obamacare to 9/11, saying it would “end up killing many more Americans than Osama bin Laden ever did.” He also posted a video on social media where he labeled the American Health Care Act an “act of war on Americans.”

Springer was the mayor of Cincinnati in the late 1970s and previously served on the city council. When his show first went on air in 1991 it was geared toward politics with guests ranging from Oliver North and Jesse Jackson, and topics including homelessness and gun control. The show, however, switched to a more sensationalist, tabloid feel in 1994 and quickly gained a cult following with ratings in 1998 beating “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in many cities and reaching more than 6.7 million viewers.



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Rosie O'Donnell: Reality Winner is a 'brave young patriot' – Prosecutors: NSA leaker made threats, pledged to Taliban – JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Why Reality Winner may be a patriot


Rosie O’Donnell defended a woman charged with leaking U.S. government secrets, calling 25-year-old Reality Winner a “brave, young patriot.”

O’Donnell tweeted Thursday, “i support reality winner speak truth to power #resist #womenUNITE” and added a link to a GoFundMe page to raise money for Winner.

She also defended Winner after a Twitter user said the 25-year-old got herself into trouble by being “careless.”

“Brave not careless,” O’Donnell responded.

She also confirmed on Twitter that she donated $1,000 to Winner.

Winner, a government contractor, remains locked up on federal charges that she mailed a classified report to an online news outlet. The Justice Department announced her arrest Monday as The Intercept reported that it had obtained a classified report suggesting Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier days before last year’s presidential election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

You can find Sasha Savitsky on Twitter @SashaFB.



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Bobcat traps family inside home


Police in New Jersey say a bobcat cornered a mother and her two young children in the bathroom of their home, prompting a police response.

The Morris County family called police Wednesday evening to report that a bobcat had somehow gotten into their home.

WOMAN DISTRACTED BY PHONE FALLS OVER BASEMENT ACCESS DOORS

NJ.com reports officers opened all of the doors and windows in the house to coax the bobcat into leaving.

Washington Township police Sgt. Robert Oranchak says the bobcat left after about an hour. He says it didn’t appear to be sick or rabid.

The animal did not make any contact with the family or the officers.



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Fla. police safely locate twin sisters who disappeared


Twins that went missing in Coral Springs have been found safe, early Friday morning, by police.

According to a tweet by Coral Springs Police, two 12-year-old twin sisters, Rickhia and Nicolette McClam, were found safe at around midnight at their godmother’s home. Police believe the twins were at their godmother’s home the entire time .

 

 

Police added that the twins have returned home, but a criminal investigation is ongoing into how they went missing.

Click here for more from WSVN.

 



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