Failed SA and federal political candidate Mark Aldridge loses gun licence after threatening to shoot hoons



A failed South Australian and federal political candidate and animal sanctuary owner has lost a bid to keep his firearms licence after a tribunal found he threatened to shoot hoon drivers in 2017.

Mark Aldridge — who has run in a number of state and federal elections, both as an independent and One Nation candidate — applied to the SA Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) to get his firearms licence reinstated after it was cancelled.

The Registrar of Firearms cancelled Mr Aldridge’s firearms licence in June 2020, claiming he was “not a fit and proper” person to hold one after an incident in January 2017.

After a two-day hearing, the tribunal agreed and refused to reinstate Mr Aldridge’s licence.

The tribunal found that Mr Aldridge admitted making “repeated indirect threats to use a firearm to harm others” when he made the comment: “Do you know what I’d like to do? Just go and get the f***en self-loading and f***en knock a few of the c**** off.”

Mr Aldridge told the tribunal that was he well-known in the community, and had previously been a political candidate, so people knew where he lived and that he had an animal sanctuary at his property.

He also gave evidence that he had 5,000 friends and 30,000 followers on his social media.

‘Firework sparks feud with hoon drivers’

Mr Aldridge told the tribunal that people were doing burnouts and setting off fireworks near his home in December 2016, and a cracker was found in his driveway near dry grass.

“In the early afternoon of January 1, 2017, he [Mr Aldridge] put a post on social media with a photograph of the firework he had found noting that it was near dry grass and referred to the people who had left it as ‘childish morons’,” the tribunal stated.

Mr Aldridge told the tribunal that members from the group called him and asked him to meet them at the corner, so he drove there with a friend, and approached them carrying a “night stick” — or extendable baton.

He said there had been a “brief conversation” before he returned home.

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But Mr Aldridge told the tribunal that about three hours later, fireworks were set off on his property so he jumped in his car and drove towards the group to record their number plates before he was assaulted.

The tribunal stated that Mr Aldridge’s wife had contacted police but cancelled the request for help about six minutes later.

Dash cam footage from Mr Aldridge’s car was tendered to the tribunal.

It showed the former political candidate making the following comments: “I only got this as a weapon” and “I wish I had a f***en gun, I’d shoot them all.”

Tribunal hears link to outlaw bikie

It also revealed that Mr Aldridge’s friend ask him if he could “ring what’s-his-name from the [Gypsy Joker Outlaw Motorcycle Club]”. He replied: “Nah, too many of them.”

Mr Aldridge told the tribunal that the comments were made to his friend “in private in an attempt to sound tough” and that he had no intention of acting on them.

Mr Aldridge admitted to SACAT that he had the contact details for a member of the Gypsy Joker outlaw bikie club after meeting him at a rally to protest South Australia’s anti-association laws.

“On the evidence available to the tribunal, I consider there is a risk that the applicant may cause harm to another by the threatened use of a firearm. This reflects adversely on his fitness and propriety,” the presiding member said in his judgment.

“The events of January 1, 2017, show a pattern by Mr Aldridge of confrontational behaviour.

“I reject his evidence that his comments made to his friend and the third party were made to sound tough.

“In my view the evidence clearly shows Mr Aldridge planned to confront the Commodore group armed with weapons. He made multiple threats to harm others. He was aware the police patrol had been cancelled.”

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Hours After Biden Inauguration, Federal Agents Use Tear Gas in Portland


PORTLAND, Ore. — Protesters in the Pacific Northwest smashed windows at a Democratic Party headquarters, lit a trash fire and burned an American flag on Wednesday night in a raucous challenge by antifascist and racial justice protesters to the new administration of President Biden, whose promised reforms, they declared, “won’t save us.”

In Portland, Ore., there were scenes of tear gas, smashed windows and lines of agents in camouflage — now working under the Biden administration — who confronted a crowd outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building near downtown.

Another tense protest in Seattle saw dozens of people push their way through the streets, with some breaking windows, spray-painting anarchist insignia and chanting not only about ICE, but the many other issues that roiled America’s streets last year under the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.

“No Cops, Prisons, Borders, Presidents,” said one banner, while another proclaimed that the conflict over racial justice, policing, immigration and corporate influence in the country was “not over” merely because a new president had been inaugurated in Washington, D.C.

“A Democratic administration is not a victory for oppressed people,” said a flier handed out during the demonstrations, during which protesters also smashed windows at a shop often described as the original Starbucks in downtown Seattle. The communiqués used expletives to condemn Mr. Biden and “his stupid” crime bill, passed in 1994 and blamed for mass incarcerations in the years since.

Hours after the inauguration of Mr. Biden, federal agents in Portland used tear gas and other crowd-control munitions to disperse demonstrators who had gathered to protest the harsh arrest and detention practices wielded by federal immigration authorities under the Trump administration.

Mr. Biden has signaled that immigration is going to be a key issue of his presidency, using some of his first executive orders on Wednesday to end construction of the border wall and bolster the program that provides deportation protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.

The conflict in Portland capped a day of demonstrations in the liberal city, where different groups of protesters either decried Mr. Biden or called for activism to pressure the new president to take forceful action on immigration, climate change, health care, racial justice and income inequality.

Earlier in the day, a group of about 200 people — a mix of racial justice, antifascist and anarchist activists — marched to the local Democratic Party headquarters, where some of them smashed windows and tipped over garbage containers, lighting the contents of one on fire. “We don’t want Biden — we want revenge,” said one sign, referring to killings committed by police officers.

In a city that has seen months of demonstrations over racial injustice, economic inequality, federal law enforcement and corporate power — and some of the harshest law enforcement responses to such protests — protesters have vowed to continue their actions no matter who is president. “We are ungovernable,” one sign in the crowd said.

In Seattle, about 150 people marched through the streets. Some spray-painted buildings with an anarchist symbol and broke windows, including at a federal courthouse. They chanted both anti-Trump and anti-Biden slogans.

One member of the group handed out fliers to people on the street that said, “Biden won! And so did corporate elites!” The fliers explained that a “Democratic administration is not a victory for oppressed people” and that “Biden will not save us.”

“I came out here because no matter what happens, Biden and Kamala aren’t enough,” said one of the protesters, Alejandro Quezada Brom, 28, referring to Vice President Kamala Harris. He said the new president needs to know that “the pressure’s not off” for progress on immigration and policing reforms.

Seattle police officers followed the group and began to surround it as night fell. At least two protesters appeared to be arrested.

At yet another demonstration in Portland, people gathered to hear speakers who celebrated Mr. Trump’s departure but also called for continued pressure on the new government.

“The fight has just begun,” said Ray Austin, 25. He said that the damage done by Mr. Trump could not be undone by the likes of Mr. Biden and that the nation needed a groundswell of people demanding more.

Speakers at the event called for a Green New Deal to fight climate change, a “Medicare for All”-style health insurance system, overhauls of police departments to address racial disparities and other fundamental changes.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last May, protesters in Portland mobilized on the streets nightly, much of their ire targeted at the mayor and the police force that repeatedly used tear gas to subdue them. The crowds swelled during the summer after Mr. Trump issued an executive order to protect federal property and agents wearing camouflage brought a crackdown to the city.

Those conflicts have since subsided, but protesters in Portland have continued to mobilize.

Mike Baker reported from Portland, and Hallie Golden from Seattle.

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Survivor seeks apology and demands Federal Government action over abuse claims at Retta Dixon Home in Darwin


It is not easy for Frank Spry to talk about what happened to him at the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin decades ago.

“I was in there from when I was seven until I was just under 18,” he said about the institution that was supposed to care for children.

“There was abuse … physical, mental, sexual.”

Mr Spry is now 69 years old.

He has been a teacher, a musician and a vocal advocate for people from the Stolen Generations.

But when he looks back at his life, it is clear to him what happened at Retta Dixon had a major impact.

“There were times where I basically wanted to commit suicide,” he said.

“I’ve not gone that far, but there were occasions where I felt really deeply hurt by what happened to me.”

In an attempt to seek redress for what he says occurred at the facility, Mr Spry made an application to the National Redress Scheme [NRS] for people who have experienced institutional child abuse.

He was shocked this week to learn that that application has hit major hurdles.

The Retta Dixon Home facility housed mainly Aboriginal children, including many Stolen Generation children.(Credit: Royal Commisson into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse)

The organisation which ran the Retta Dixon Home, Australian Indigenous Ministries [AIM], has been barred from participating in the scheme by the Federal Government, which says the church group does not have the money to pay out potential claimants.

On top of that, no “funder of last resort” has been identified for the Retta Dixon Home survivors, meaning no state, territory or federal government has stepped up to guarantee that any compensation payments ordered through the scheme are fulfilled.

It has left people like Mr Spry in administrative limbo, with no guarantee the National Redress Scheme will deliver compensation or acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

“Some of those people have passed on”

An unidentified girl sits in the dormitory of Darwin's Retta Dixon Home in 1958.
A dormitory in Darwin’s Retta Dixon Home in 1958.(National Archives)

The ABC has asked the Federal Government if it will step in as the funder of last resort for people in Mr Spry’s position, of which there are at least 10.

The Department of Social Services said a decision regarding this would be discussed at a NRS governance board meeting this year.

“The scheme continues to actively explore options, including with state and territory governments, for expanded funder of last resort arrangements,” the department said in a statement.

It suggested a two-year review of the scheme, which is due in the first quarter of this year, could deliver changes to how the funder of last resort provision could be applied.

“Any changes from this review will be considered by the state and territory ministers, who are also required to give approval to substantive redress changes,” it said.

Northern Territory's Retta Dixon Home
Frank Spry is demanding an apology from the operator of Retta Dixon Home.(National Archives of Australia)

For Mr Spry, who previously received some compensation from a 2017 class action regarding Retta Dixon Home, accessing the full amount of compensation he may be entitled to under the law is important.

But equally pressing for him is a desire to have his story acknowledged.

It is for this reason he is asking AIM to apologise to him and others who might be in his situation.

“They must wear it and take it on the chin.”

The church group, which rebranded from Aborigines Inland Mission in 1998, maintains that it did all it could to join the National Redress Scheme.

In a statement, AIM said it would like to find ways to meaningfully apologise to Mr Spry and any others in comparable situations.

“We would like to explore with them how they would like to have us make a relevant apology,” AIM’s acting general director Cliff Letcher said.

Frank Spry stands with his hands on his hips as he looks ahead with several trees in the background.
Frank Spry recalls harrowing times at the Retta Dixon Home, where he spent most of his childhood.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Mr Spry is yet to respond to AIM’s offer but given the Federal Government has decided to allow AIM to stay off the scheme, he believes the onus is now on it to help people like him find justice.

“If they’ve said to AIM and Retta Dixon Home: ‘Because you don’t have enough money, you can cop out of it’, then the Federal Government needs to be [the] owner of this,” he said.

“Own what happened to these little children, to us, in this institution.”

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Coronavirus threat in Greater Brisbane easing, Federal Government no longer warns of hotspot


The Federal Government has revoked Brisbane’s COVID-19 hotspot declaration after Queensland consistently recorded no new cases of community transmission.

Many states and territories shut their borders on January 8 to five council areas in Greater Brisbane after six people became infected with the UK strain, linked to Brisbane quarantine Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said there are now no hotspots in Australia, however warned that could change at any time.

“There will be days where there may be a requirement for the Commonwealth hotspot definition to be reintroduced,” Mr Hunt said.

Unfortunately, the Federal revoking of Brisbane’s hotspot status doesn’t mean Brisbanites can travel freely across Australia as some states still have restrictions in place. Here’s what you need to know:

I’m currently in Greater Brisbane, where in Australia can I go?

The only places you can travel to freely without a border pass or quarantining restrictions in place are the ACT and New South Wales.

If you want to go to Victoria, however, you will need to get tested upon arrival and isolate until you receive a negative result.

Travellers to Victoria from Greater Brisbane are now in the “orange zone” category and must fill out a border declaration pass.

You can’t enter Tasmania unless you quarantine for 14 days but a review into the rule is expected on Monday.

You can’t enter Western Australia unless you have an exemption through the state’s G2G pass system.

Queensland is currently deemed a “medium risk” by WA and even when you get an exemption, you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days before you can move freely within the state.

You can travel to South Australia without quarantining, but you must fill out a Cross Border Travel Registration and get tested on day 1, 5 and 12 of your visit.

You don’t need to quarantine for 14 days if you want to visit the Northern Territory but you must fill out an exemption form.

Are there still restrictions in Greater Brisbane?

There is still a mask mandate in place and restrictions on venues, events and gatherings.

You must wear a mask indoors at shopping centres, supermarkets, cinemas, on public transport, in taxis and rideshares, at the library and places of worship.

Social distancing restrictions are still in place for bars and restaurants.(ABC News: James Carmody)

When attending a restaurant or bar, you must put your mask on when entering and any time you leave your table.

You don’t need to wear it outdoors if you can practice social distancing.

Restaurants, bars, and cafes must adhere to the one person per 4 square metres rule indoors and one person per 2sqm rule outdoors.

Weddings and funerals are capped at 100 people.

Private gatherings are limited to 20 people indoors and outdoors.

A visitor ban is still in place for hospitals, aged care homes, prisons and disability accommodation.

These restrictions are in place until Friday, subject to any new cases the state may record.

Is there still a threat from the UK strain

Queensland recorded two new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, both in hotel quarantine and authorities are increasingly confident they’ve contained the UK strain cluster.

There was just one community transmission case linked to a cleaner from the Grand Chancellor, with the three-day lockdown last weekend considered a success.

A woman wearing a black shirt and mask has a baby strapped to her chest standing next to a woman in a pink gingham shirt.
Sarah Crowley and daughter Zara with her mum, Ali, leaving quarantine in The Westin hotel in Brisbane’s CBD on January 16, 2021.(ABC News: Jessica Stewart)

The hotel was shut and evacuated last week and guests taken to The Westin, also in Brisbane’s CBD.

Initially they were told they would have to complete a further 14 days of quarantine, before that decision was revoked last night and travellers were released from the facilities.

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Federal Government to add 20 repatriation flights to bring Australians stranded abroad during coronavirus home


The Federal Government will schedule another 20 repatriation flights to bring stranded Australians home.

Acting Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said flights from “priority areas” determined by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) around the world will be organised by the Commonwealth over the next couple of months.

Travellers will be taken to the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, as well as to locations in Canberra and Tasmania.

Mr Birmingham said the extra repatriation flights were “over and above” the existing caps on returning international travellers.

He added: “[This] will create additional places for Australians to get home over and above those caps by transporting people … [into] locations that are willing to work above those caps on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ll work closely with authorities in those jurisdictions to make sure that it is all done with the strictest procedures and protocols to keep people safe.”

A week earlier, National Cabinet slashed the cap on international passengers.

The Acting Foreign Minister says the flights are “over and above” the existing travel caps.(Reuters: Jason Reed)

Caps in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia were temporarily halved to help states manage the flow of travellers potentially exposed to the UK strain of COVID-19 spreading globally.

National Cabinet also imposed new in-flight and in-airport measures on passengers and aircrews.

The Government’s decision to schedule new repatriation flights comes after major airline Emirates abruptly suspended flights to and from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane indefinitely.

Labor said the “devastating” decision by Emirates to halt most flights to Australia was a consequence of the Federal Government’s failure to take over responsibility for quarantining returned travellers.

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Penny Wong says Emirates announcement is “devastating news”.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said it demonstrated the need for the Federal Government to establish a national quarantine program to bring more Australians home.

“We wouldn’t be in this mess if Scott Morrison had done what is his responsibility, that is to deliver a safe national quarantine system, but he didn’t, he handballed it to the states and now Australians are paying the price,” Senator Wong said.

“Today’s announcement by Emirates that it is cancelling flights into Australia is devastating news for so many Australians.

“We have nearly 40,000 Australians stranded overseas who have asked their country for help, who have asked their government for help and now they face an even more uncertain future as more and more flights dry up.”

The Government will reallocate spaces left by Emirates’ sudden decision to other airlines operating in the region. 

Mr Birmingham said: “We want to see the cap utilised across the states and territories and our additional flights are going to create additional places over and above that cap.”

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Federal watchdogs open probe of response to Capitol riot


WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal watchdogs launched a sweeping review of how the FBI, the Pentagon and other law enforcement agencies responded to the riot at the U.S. Capitol, including whether there were failures in information sharing and other preparations that left the historic symbol of democracy vulnerable to assault by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters.

The inquiries, undertaken by the inspectors general for the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Defense, carry the potential of yielding searing criticism of the government’s handling of a deadly breach at the Capitol in which armed loyalists of Trump overran the police and came in close contact with elected officials. The reviews will encompass everything from whether the FBI adequately shared information with other law enforcement agencies about the potential for violence to how the Pentagon mobilized for the Jan. 6 crisis.

The initiation of multiple, simultaneous inquiries comes as failings in the government’s preparation, coordination and response are coming into sharper focus more than a week after the riot. The Capitol Police, for instance, has said it had prepared for only First Amendment activity at the Capitol on the day that lawmakers had assembled to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, even though Trump himself had for weeks encouraged his supporters to come to Washington and had called on them to “fight like hell” at a rally shortly before the riot.

The Pentagon has said the Capitol Police turned down an offer for help days before the riot. Once it became clear on the day of the event that its help would be needed, the Defense Department had to scramble to bring in a larger force to back up the police.

An FBI official who initially said there was no intelligence suggesting out-of-control violence later acknowledged that the bureau was aware of a warning on an internet message board, though the official said the message was not attributable to an individual person.

At the Justice Department, the inspector general investigation will examine whether information was adequately shared by Justice to other agencies, including the Capitol Police, about the potential for violence.

The inspector general said it “also will assess whether there are any weaknesses in DOJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”

The review will almost certainly include an assessment of intelligence that the Justice Department — and particularly the FBI — had collected before and after the riot. It comes days after the FBI conceded that one of its field offices compiled an internal bulletin that warned of potential violence aimed at Congress.

The Washington Post reported that the Jan. 5 report from the FBI’s field office in Norfolk, said the bulletin detailed threats from extremists to commit a “war.”

Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, said that once he received the warning, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, D.C.

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general office said it would look into the response of its component agencies, focusing in part on the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. That unit issues alerts to law enforcement agencies around the country.

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog, meanwhile, will review the actions of the Park Police on the Ellipse, the site of Trump’s speech to supporters at a rally before the riot.

And the Defense Department’s inspector general announced it is launching a review of the Pentagon’s “roles, responsibilities and actions” to prepare for and respond to the protest at which Trump spoke and the subsequent insurrection at the Capitol.

____

Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer and Ben Fox contributed to this report.

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Federal government executes womb raider killer Lisa Montgomery


Lisa Montgomery, 52, was pronounced dead at 1.31am EST on Wednesday

The only woman on federal death row has been executed by lethal injection after an 11th-hour order from the Supreme Court cleared all legal obstacles to carrying out her death sentence.

Lisa Montgomery, 52, was pronounced dead at 1.31am EST on Wednesday at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana in what could be the final federal execution under President Donald Trump. 

Montgomery, who is from Kansas, killed expectant mother Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Missouri in 2004 before cutting the baby from Stinnett’s womb and attempting to pass off the newborn as her own.

Montgomery’s attorneys blasted the execution in an emotional statement, saying: ‘The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight.’ 

As a curtain was raised in the execution chamber on Wednesday, Montgomery looked momentarily bewildered as she glanced at journalists peering at her from behind thick glass. 

As the execution process began, a woman standing over Montgomery’s shoulder leaned over, gently removed Montgomery’s face mask and asked her if she had any last words. ‘No,’ Montgomery responded in a quiet, muffled voice. She said nothing else.

She tapped her fingers nervously for several seconds, displaying a heart-shaped tattoo on her thumb, but she otherwise showed no signs of distress, and quickly closed her eyes. 

Originally scheduled for 6pm on Tuesday, Montgomery’s execution was delayed after last-ditch appeals from her attorneys, who had argued that she was mentally incompetent and had suffered a lifetime of horrible sexual abuse.  

Protesters in opposition to the death penalty gathered to protest the execution of Lisa Montgomery outside the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana on Tuesday

Protesters in opposition to the death penalty gathered to protest the execution of Lisa Montgomery outside the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana on Tuesday

The order just before midnight on Tuesday allows the execution of Lisa Montgomery to proceed, removing the final legal barriers in the case

Bobbie Jo Stinnett

Lisa Montgomery (left), executed early on January 13, was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett (right)

The Department of Justice issued a new notice of execution, dated January 13, informing Montgomery that her death sentence would be carried out on January 13

The Department of Justice issued a new notice of execution, dated January 13, informing Montgomery that her death sentence would be carried out on January 13

Just before midnight on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued an order removing the final legal barriers to the execution, and minutes later it became clear it was proceeding immediately as witnesses were moved to the execution area. 

The Department of Justice issued a new notice of execution, dated January 13, informing Montgomery that her death sentence would be carried out on January 13. 

Kelley Henry, Montgomery’s lawyer, in scathing remarks, called the execution, ‘vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.’

‘No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease – diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors,’ Henry said in a statement. 

The Supreme Court ruling removed the final legal barriers to the execution, which Montgomery’s attorneys had hoped to delay until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, a death penalty opponent.  

Some of Stinnett’s relatives have traveled to Indiana witness Montgomery’s execution, the Justice Department said. 

In Tuesday night’s ruling, the Supreme Court’s three liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — dissented, saying they would grant the stay that Montgomery’s attorneys sought. 

Montgomery´s legal team says she suffered “sexual torture,” including gang rapes, as a child, permanently scarring her emotionally and exacerbating mental-health issues that ran in her family.

At trial, prosecutors accused Montgomery of faking mental illness, noting that her killing of Stinnett was premeditated and included meticulous planning, including online research on how to perform a C-section.

Henry balked at that idea, citing extensive testing and brain scans that supported the diagnosis of mental illness.

Henry said the issue at the core of the legal arguments are not whether she knew the killing was wrong in 2004 but whether she fully grasps why she is slated to be executed now.

Montgomery’s execution is the first of a woman a federal level since 1953. Following her execution, there are now 51 inmates on federal death row, all of them men.

Montgomery, 52, had originally been scheduled to be killed by lethal injections of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate, at 6pm EST on Tuesday, but last minute legal challenges delayed the execution. 

Anti-death-penalty activist Glenda Breeden holds a lamp on Tuesday while protesting against the execution of Lisa Montgomery at Terre Haute Federal Prison

Anti-death-penalty activist Glenda Breeden holds a lamp on Tuesday while protesting against the execution of Lisa Montgomery at Terre Haute Federal Prison 

The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the execution on Monday, siding with her lawyers that the government had scheduled her execution in violation of the original sentencing court’s judgment issued in 2007. 

That stay was vacated by the Supreme Court late on Tuesday.

Separately, a federal judge on the 7th Circuit in Indiana had ordered the execution to be postponed to allow for a hearing on whether she was too mentally ill to be executed. 

‘The record before the Court contains ample evidence that Ms. Montgomery’s current mental state is so divorced from reality that she cannot rationally understand the government’s rationale for her execution,’ Judge Hanlon wrote in his ruling.

‘Both the (government) and the victims of crime have an important interest in the timely enforcement of a sentence,’ he said, citing precedent.

But ‘it is also in the public interest to ensure that the government does not execute a prisoner who due to her mental condition ‘cannot appreciate the meaning of a community’s judgement.”

But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned the stay on Tuesday afternoon.  Montgomery’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling, which they declined.

Montgomery faced execution Tuesday at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, (pictured) Indiana , just eight days before President-elect Joe Biden , an opponent of the federal death penalty, takes office

Montgomery faced execution Tuesday at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, (pictured) Indiana , just eight days before President-elect Joe Biden , an opponent of the federal death penalty, takes office

Montgomery’s execution was one of three that were to supposed be the last before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, is sworn-in next week. 

Now following legal challenges it’s unclear how many additional executions there will be under President Donald Trump, who resumed federal executions in July after 17-year pause. Ten federal inmates have since been put to death. 

Separately from Montgomery’s case, a federal judge for the U.S. District of Columbia halted the scheduled executions later this week of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs in a ruling Tuesday. 

Johnson was convicted of killing seven people related to his drug trafficking in Virginia, and Higgs was convicted of ordering the murders of three women in Maryland. 

Both tested positive for COVID-19 last month, and a judge ruled they should be allowed to recover before facing execution. 

Montgomery’s shocking crime: Killer strangled pregnant mother and stole her child through crude C-section 

In 2004, Montgomery drove about 170 miles from her Melvern, Kansas, farmhouse to the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore under the guise of adopting a rat terrier puppy from Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a 23-year-old dog breeder. 

She strangled Stinnett with a rope before performing a crude cesarean and fleeing with the baby. 

She was arrested the next day after showing off the premature infant, Victoria Jo, who survived and is now 16 years old and hasn’t spoken publicly about the tragedy.

In 2007, Montgomery was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death and handed a death sentence. She would have been the first woman executed by the federal justice system since 1953. 

‘As we walked across the threshold our Amber Alert was scrolling across the TV at that very moment,’ recalled Randy Strong, who was part of the northwest Missouri major case squad at the time.

He looked to his right and saw Montgomery holding the newborn and was awash in relief when she handed her over to law enforcement. 

The preceding hours had been a blur in which he photographed Stinnett’s body and spent a sleepless night looking for clues – unsure of whether the baby was dead or alive and no idea what she looked like.

But then tips began arriving about Montgomery, who had a history of faking pregnancies and suddenly had a baby. Strong, now the sheriff of Nodaway County, where the killing happened, hopped in an unmarked car with another officer. 

He learned while en route that the email address fischer4kids(at)hotmail.com that was used to set up the deadly meeting with Stinnett had been sent from a dial-up connection at Montgomery’s home.

Expectant mother Bobbie Jo Stinnett at a dog show

Zeb Stinnett and baby Victoria Jo Stinnett

Left: Expectant mother Bobbie Jo Stinnett at a dog show. Right:  Zeb Stinnett and baby Victoria Jo Stinnett, who was cut from her mother’s womb by Montgomery in the gruesome attack

A group shot from the dog show in Abilene, Kansas. Lisa Montgomery (second from left), Bobbi Jo (second from right) and Zeb Stinnett (far right) pose with their dogs

A group shot from the dog show in Abilene, Kansas. Lisa Montgomery (second from left), Bobbi Jo (second from right) and Zeb Stinnett (far right) pose with their dogs

‘I absolutely knew I was walking into the killer’s home,’ recalled Strong, saying rat terriers ran around his feet as he approached her house. Like Stinnett, Montgomery also raised rat terriers.

Bobbie Jo Stinnett’s mother, Becky Harper, sobbed as she told a Missouri dispatcher about stumbling across her daughter in a pool of blood, her womb slashed open and the child she had been carrying missing.

‘It’s like she exploded or something,’ Harper told the dispatcher on December 16, 2004, during the desperate yet futile attempt to get help for her daughter.

Prosecutors said her motive was that Stinnett’s ex-husband knew she had undergone a tubal ligation that made her sterile and planned to reveal she was lying about being pregnant in an effort to get custody of two of their four children. 

Needing a baby before a fast-approaching court date, Montgomery turned her focus on Stinnett, whom she had met at dog shows.

Montgomery’s lawyers, though, have argued that sexual abuse during Montgomery’s childhood led to mental illness. 

Attorney Kelley Henry spoke in favor of Monday’s decision, saying in a statement to the Capital-Journal that ‘Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers.’

Montgomery, now 52, was abused by her stepfather, who built a room in the back of a trailer where they lived in which he and his friends raped her from about the age of 11, and where her mother pimped her for sex, Montgomery’s lawyers said. 

Montgomery suffered sexual abuse and torture at the hands of her stepfather and mother that Montgomery's lawyers and her sister, who was also raped in their childhood home, compared to a horror movie. In a nearly 7,000-page clemency petition filed earlier in January, they asked Trump to commute Montgomery's sentence to life in prison

Montgomery suffered sexual abuse and torture at the hands of her stepfather and mother that Montgomery’s lawyers and her sister, who was also raped in their childhood home, compared to a horror movie. In a nearly 7,000-page clemency petition filed earlier in January, they asked Trump to commute Montgomery’s sentence to life in prison

Diane Mattingly, Montgomery’s older sister, previously told reporters at a briefing that she was also repeatedly raped, sometimes with Montgomery in the same room, until authorities removed her to foster care.

‘So many people let her down,’ Mattingly said. ‘Yes, I started out the same way, but I went into a place where I was loved and cared for and shown self worth. I had a good foundation. Lisa did not and she broke. She literally broke.’ 

Her stepfather denied the sexual abuse in videotaped testimony and said he didn’t have a good memory when confronted with a transcript of a divorce proceeding in which he admitted some physical abuse. 

Her mother testified that she never filed a police complaint because he had threatened her and her children.

But the jurors who heard the case, some crying through the gruesome testimony, disregarded the defense in convicting her of kidnapping resulting in death.

Prosecutors argued that Stinnett regained consciousness and tried to defend herself as Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from her womb. 

Later that day, Montgomery called her husband to pick her up in the parking lot of a Long John Silver’s in Topeka, Kansas, telling him she had delivered the baby earlier in the day at a nearby birthing center.

She eventually confessed, and the rope and bloody knife used to kill Stinnett were found in her car. A search of her computer showed she used it to research Cesareans and order a birthing kit.

Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in December 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife, authorities said. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own, prosecutors said

Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in December 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife, authorities said. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own, prosecutors said

Pictured: Demonstrators protest federal executions of death row inmates, in front of the US Justice Department in Washington, DC, on December 10, 2020

Pictured: Demonstrators protest federal executions of death row inmates, in front of the US Justice Department in Washington, DC, on December 10, 2020

Stinnett’s husband, Zeb, told jurors his world ‘crashed to an end’ when he learned his wife was dead. 

He said he didn’t return for months to the couple’s home in Skidmore, a small farming community that earlier gained notoriety after the 1981 slaying of town bully Ken Rex McElroy in front of a crowd of people who refused to implicate the killer or killers. 

That crime was chronicled in a book, ‘In Broad Daylight,’ as well as a TV movie, the film ‘Without Mercy’ and the miniseries ‘No One Saw a Thing.’

President-elect Joe Biden’s stance on the death penalty

After current president Donald Trump resumed the federal death penalty in 2020 – for the first time in 17 years – president-elect Joe Biden has signalled his intention to eliminate capital punishment at a federal level.

On Joe Biden’s website outlining the policies of the in-coming commander-in-chief, he instead proposes that individuals on death row should ‘serve life sentences without probation or parole.’

‘Over 160 individuals who’ve been sentenced to death in this country since 1973 have later been exonerated,’ his website says.

‘Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example. 

‘These individuals should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole.’

Recently, on Victoria Jo’s birthday, he sent Strong, the sheriff, a message through Facebook Messenger thanking him.

‘I just wept,’ Strong recalled. ‘He is going to constantly be reminded of this whether in his nightmares or somebody is going to call and want to interview him. 

‘The family doesn’t want to be interviewed. They want to be left alone. The community of Skidmore has had a troubling past and history. They didn’t want this. They didn’t deserve this.’

Montgomery originally was scheduled to be put to death on Dec. 8. But the execution was temporarily blocked after her attorneys contracted the coronavirus visiting her in prison.

Without denying the seriousness of her crime, Montgomery’s lawyers last week sought clemency from US President Donald Trump.

But Trump, an outspoken supporter of the death penalty, has so far failed to act on their request. He has allowed more executions in a year than any other U.S. president has done since the 19th century.

Despite the decline of capital punishment in the US and around the world, Trump’s administration, revived the punishment in the federal system in 2020 after a 17-year hiatus even as the novel coronavirus spread to infect prison employees, inmates’ lawyers and two other inmates facing execution. 

Biden – who takes office on January 20 – has promised to work with Congress to try and abolish the death penalty altogether.

Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo has said the president-elect ‘opposes the death penalty now and in the future’ and would work as president to end its use. 

But Ducklo did not say whether executions would be paused immediately once Biden takes office.   

Developing story, more to follow.

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A US judge has halted the execution of the only woman on federal death row



This article contains references to child sexual abuse.

A federal judge in Indiana late on Monday local time blocked the execution of Lisa Montgomery, a convicted murderer and the only woman on federal death row in the United States, on mental health grounds, based on evidence that she was unable to understand the government’s rationale for her execution.

The decision was later upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, pushing any new execution date into Joe Biden’s administration unless the Supreme Court intervenes.

Montgomery, who was due to be killed by lethal injection on 12 January, was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery then cut Ms Stinnett’s fetus from the womb.

The child survived.

US judge James Patrick Hanlon on Monday granted a stay of execution to allow the court to conduct a hearing to determine whether she is competent to be executed, according to a court filing made in the US district court of Southern District of Indiana.

Montgomery’s lawyer, Kelley Henry, welcomed the judge’s ruling and said the court was right to put a stop to her execution.

“Mrs Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence,” Ms Henry said in a statement.

Montgomery’s lawyers have asked for US President Donald Trump’s clemency, saying she committed her crime after a lifetime of being abused and raped. In a nearly 7,000-page clemency petition filed last week, they asked Mr Trump to commute Montgomery’s sentence to life in prison.

The lawyers have said Montgomery admits her guilt but deserves clemency because she has long suffered severe mental illness, exacerbated by being gang raped by her stepfather and his friends during an abusive childhood.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.

Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.

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Federal Prosecutors Investigating Trump’s Role In Inciting Capitol Attack


Topline

U.S. Attorney for the District of Washington, D.C. Michael Sherwin told reporters Thursday that President Trump is among those being investigated for their role in inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol Wednesday that saw a mob of the president’s supporters storm the building.

Key Facts

Sherwin said his office is looking at “all actors here, not only the people that went into the building,” including “others that maybe assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role in this,” the Washington Post reported.

Asked by reporters if  Trump is being investigated, Sherwin reiterated that investigators are “looking at all actors here,” stating, “anyone that had a role, if the evidence fits the element of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”

Shortly before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump delivered a speech to the mob regurgitating the false claims of voter fraud that fueled them and urging them to “fight like hell,” because, if they don’t, “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

The president also instructed the crowd to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” and go to the Capitol to “give our Republicans, the weak ones… the boldness they need to take back our country,” falsely promising he would “be there with you.”

Trump tweeted numerous times during the attack, initially calling for Pence to overturn the election before making various statements advocating peace but also reiterating his false claims of a stolen election.

Trump was warned by White House counsel Pat Cipollone that he could have legal exposure related to the attack, according to the New York Times.

Tangent

Others who could come under scrutiny are Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who called for a “trial by combat” during a speech to the crowd, and first son Donald Trump Jr., who said Republicans in Congress “better fight for Trump, because if they’re not… I’m gonna be in your backyard in a couple months.”

What To Watch For

Sherwin said prosecutors plan to prioritize those perpetrators of destructive or violent acts at the Capitol – who he called “the closest alligators to the boat” – and said the Department of Justice and FBI are expediently pursuing cases against and charging rioters.

Surprising Fact

Sherwin took aim at the Capitol Police for not detaining more of the rioters as they left the Capitol. “It appears they were not apprehended or zip-tied by the police,” he said, insisting that it “made our job difficult” by forcing investigators to gather video footage and phone records to identify people.



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Anthony Albanese dumps Labor’s franking credits policy, attacks ‘fake’ PM ahead of federal election


Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has dumped Labor’s policy to overhaul franking credits while also launching an attack on Scott Morrison, in a renewed focus on the next election, which could be called later this year.

In a video conference address to Victorian Labor members this morning, Mr Albanese announced Labor would scrap the proposed changes to franking credits the party took to the 2019 election campaign.

The Opposition Leader said the policy had distracted voters from the party’s core messages.

He said that would not be the case at the next federal election, which could be called in late 2021 or early 2022.

The Coalition targeted the franking credits policy during that campaign, describing the measure as a “retiree tax”.

“I can confirm that Labor has heard that message clearly and that we will not be taking any changes to franking credits to the next election,” Mr Albanese said.

“I want the focus to be on Labor’s positive agenda for Australia’s future … a nation where people aspire to personal success, but also have aspirations for their family, their community and their nation.”

Bill Shorten (left) was widely tipped to win the 2019 election but lost to Scott Morrison (right).(AAP)

Labor’s 2019 election review identified former leader Bill Shorten’s unpopularity and a lack of political strategy as two of the causes of the party’s failure to take government.

The Coalition, which had changed its leader three times since coming to power in 2013, was widely tipped to lose the election, having fallen into minority government months out from the poll.

However, it regained majority government as Labor’s primary vote fell to 33 per cent, with sharp falls among blue-collar workers.

PM ‘lacks empathy, stands for nothing,’ Albanese says

Mr Albanese also used the video address to criticise the Prime Minister’s character, arguing Australians had judged Mr Morrison as a person who shifts blame and is a “showman who loves grand announcements, but never delivers”.

He also invoked the awkward interaction, in January 2020, between Mr Morrison and a bushfire survivor who refused to shake his hand, as evidence that Mr Morrison lacked empathy.

“As the nation burned and our cities were choked by smoke, Mr Morrison’s only focus was photo opportunities, where, understandably, many people saw straight through him and refused to shake his hand,” he said.

“That infamous visit said a lot about Scott Morrison and his lack of empathy with Australians who are doing it tough.

“When it comes to Scott Morrison, Australians have started to work him out anyway.

Albanese resorting to ‘personal attack’

Asked about Mr Albanese’s comments today, senior Liberal MP and Minister for Industry Karen Andrews said the Opposition Leader was resorting to personal attacks because he could not attack the Government’s policies.

“He can personalise his attacks as much as he wants,” Ms Andrews said.

“What that clearly demonstrates is our policies are sound [and] they are delivering for Australians.

“If you’re going to attack an individual, it’s because you can’t attack the policy.”

A woman with blonde hair and a blue business jacket in front of an electorate office.
Minister for Industry Karen Andrews said the Opposition Leader had resorted to a “personal attack”.(ABC News)

Mr Albanese also used the speech to criticise Mr Morrison’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and his public criticisms of Labor premiers, including Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during that state’s major coronavirus outbreak in October and November.

He said Labor state premiers had taken the right decisions, while the Prime Minister “campaigned” against them.

“The Liberals’ essential belief is that government should just get out of the way of markets but we know that markets have no conscience,” Mr Albanese said.

“Just as conservative values were useless during the pandemic, they also offer us little in the rebuilding phase.

“We should use the recovery to address some of the deficiencies in our society.”



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