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After losing re-election, Texas judge releases most juvenile defendants after asking one question

Breaking News EmailsGet breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.Nov. 8, 2018 / 8:59 PM GMT / Updated Nov. 8, 2018 / 10:51 PM GMTBy Didi MartinezA Houston district court judge who lost a re-election bid on Tuesday is facing criticism for releasing a majority of the juvenile defendants…

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After losing re-election, Texas judge releases most juvenile defendants after asking one question

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By Didi Martinez

A Houston district court judge who lost a re-election bid on Tuesday is facing criticism for releasing a majority of the juvenile defendants who appeared before him Wednesday after allegedly asking them whether they planned to kill anyone.

District Court Judge Glenn Devlin, a Republican, lost his seat Tuesday to Democratic opponent Natalia Oakes — in a wave of 59 conservative jurists who had been ousted by Harris County voters, NBC Houston affiliate KPRC reported.

And on Wednesday morning, Devlin had made a decision that shocked Steve Halpert, juvenile division chief for Harris County’s Public Defender’s Office.

“The juveniles were asked whether they were going to, if released, whether they would kill somebody,” Halpert told KPRC. “It was a little bit shocking because that’s not a question Judge Devlin would ever ask. Or any judge.”

The judge’s actions were especially incongruous given his track record of incarcerating juvenile defendants, according to local media. A Houston Chronicle investigation in October revealed that Devlin and Judge John Phillips accounted for more than one-fifth of all children sent to Texas juvenile prisons last year, sending them “younger and for less-serious offenses than the county’s third juvenile court.”

Judge Glenn Devlin is facing criticism for releasing nearly all defendants who appeared before him after asking if they planned to kill anyone in Harris County District Court in Houston.
Judge Glenn Devlin is facing criticism for releasing nearly all defendants who appeared before him after asking if they planned to kill anyone in Harris County District Court in Houston. via glenndevlin.com

And even the people who are tasked with helping young men and women fight their charges were alarmed.

“I am baffled by why he did it,” Harris County Chief Public Defender Alex Bunin told NBC News on Thursday. “It’s definitely not good for the kids in that they are being released without any conditions.”

Bunin said he was worried about the kids released Wednesday, claiming that some of them had no parents or guardians to take them home at the time of their release and that others need support services like mental health treatment.

The public defender also said he is sympathetic to the district attorney’s concerns saying the judge’s move could “endanger the public,” according to a statement by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

“Neither side is happy,” Bunin said. “This is different in that it’s across the board. It’s just never been done without any consideration of the effect of the release of the child and the community.”

But Harris County Juvenile Courts Manager Cindy Milom contested any portrayals of a “mass release” of defendants. She said only seven of 13 juvenile defendants who faced the judge Wednesday were released.

Milom, who said the judge was on vacation and couldn’t comment on decisions he made, is also pushing back on Bunin’s claims expressing concern for the conditions under which the children were released.

“I really find that hard to believe because the public defender did not represent all the juveniles,” Milom said.

Prosecutors told The Houston Chronicle that four of the kids released were facing aggravated robbery charges. Oakes will be revisiting the cases during a reset scheduled for Jan. 4, the Houston paper reports.

The ACLU condemned the judge’s actions Wednesday calling it “improper” and saying it was “motivated by partisan interests” or the “result of his political loss.” The organization has since called on the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to launch an investigation.

“Judge Devlin’s mass release of children today, without any apparent concern for the children’s safety or for ensuring that they are released to their parents, proves his detachment from the needs of each child,” the ACLU said in a statement.

“I mean, the day after the election when he wasn’t re-elected, he changed his policy,” Bunin said. “There doesn’t seem to be any intellectual reasoning for it rather than to make a statement.”

Texas’ State Commission on Judicial Conduct told NBC News Thursday that they cannot “confirm or deny” the existence of a complaint against the judge due to confidentiality rules in the state, according to Eric Vinson, executive director of the commission.

Though Vinson declined to comment on specific facts involving the incident, the director did clarify that even an outgoing judge could be subject to an investigation.

“A judge is subject to the discipline of the commission,” said Vinson, noting that the commission has the power to look at a former judge’s actions while they were on the bench.

Oakes responded to a request for comment on Thursday evening saying, “I am out of town but from what I’ve heard I would not expect that from a professional.”

Didi Martinez writes for NBC News.

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Politics

Supersonic jet crash at Laughlin Air Force Base in southern Texas kills pilot

A file photo shows a T-38 Talon during an air show. U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung A T-38C Talon supersonic jet crashed Tuesday night at Laughlin Air Force Base in southern Texas, killing one pilot and sending a second to a hospital, the base said.His condition wasn’t specified by officials, and their identities are being…

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Supersonic jet crash at Laughlin Air Force Base in southern Texas kills pilot

A file photo shows a T-38 Talon during an air show.

U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

A T-38C Talon supersonic jet crashed Tuesday night at Laughlin Air Force Base in southern Texas, killing one pilot and sending a second to a hospital, the base said.

His condition wasn’t specified by officials, and their identities are being withheld until their families are notified.

The base says a board of officers will be convened to investigate the cause of the crash.

The Air Force website describes the Talon as a “twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles,” including preparing pilots “for front-line fighter and bomber aircraft.”  

CBS San Antonio affiliate KENS-TV notes the base is located some 150 miles west of San Antonio, near the city of Del Rio and the Mexican border.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Politics

The Death Toll in the California Wildfires Has Risen to 48

(PARADISE, Calif.) — Ernest Foss was a musician who gave lessons out of his home when he lived in San Francisco, where an amplifier that ran the length of a wall served as the family’s living room couch. Carl Wiley refurbished tires for Michelin. Jesus Fernandez, known as “Zeus,” was described as a loving father…

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The Death Toll in the California Wildfires Has Risen to 48

(PARADISE, Calif.) — Ernest Foss was a musician who gave lessons out of his home when he lived in San Francisco, where an amplifier that ran the length of a wall served as the family’s living room couch. Carl Wiley refurbished tires for Michelin. Jesus Fernandez, known as “Zeus,” was described as a loving father and loyal friend.

They were among the first victims identified in the aftermath of the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California history, an inferno blamed for at least 48 deaths, with authorities ramping up the search Tuesday for still more souls.

The flames all but obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise, population 27,000, and ravaged surrounding areas last Thursday. About 7,700 homes were destroyed.

The exact number of missing was unclear, but many friends and relatives of those living in the fire zone said they hadn’t heard from loved ones. Some went to shelters looking for the missing.

Efforts were underway to bring in mobile morgues, cadaver dogs, a rapid DNA analysis system for identifying victims, and an additional 150 search-and-rescue personnel on top of 13 teams already looking for remains — a grim indication that the death toll would almost surely rise.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea’s office has identified four of the victims, publicly naming three.

James Wiley said sheriff’s deputies informed him that his father, Carl, was among the dead, but the younger Wiley hadn’t been able to leave his property in the fire area to see for himself. The elder Wiley, 77, was a tire-recapper, and the family lived in Alaska for many years before moving to Butte County decades ago.

James Wiley said his father was a stoic veteran, and the two had not spoken in six years. “Hey, I lost him a long time ago,” the younger man said.

Foss, 63, moved to Paradise eight years ago because the high cost of living pushed him out of the San Francisco Bay Area, according to his daughter, Angela Loo. He had swollen limbs and couldn’t walk. He had also been on oxygen.

Loo told KTVU-TV in Oakland that her father taught music out of their home in San Francisco and turned the living room into a studio.

“I love that he shared his gift of music with me and so many others during his lifetime,” she said. “He would want to be remembered for being a San Franciscan through and through.”

Fernandez, a 48-year-old Concow resident, also died.

Myrna Pascua, whose husband was best friends with the man known as “Zeus,” called him a “tireless provider, a dependable and loyal friend, a considerate neighbor, and loving father. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

Five days after the blaze, over 1,000 people were at more than a half-dozen shelters set up for evacuees. At the Neighborhood Church in Chico, counselors, chaplains and nursing students from California State University, Chico, were available to help.

Volunteers cooked meals, and there was a large bulletin board with information about missing people.

Eddie Lazarom, who fled Paradise on foot before getting a lift from a UPS truck, was among those staying at the church. He said he had yet to hear from his three grandchildren, ages 22, 24 and 28.

“I am really worried about them. They have common sense, I’m sure, but I’d hate to find out later that they burned up,” he said.

Greg Gibson came to the shelter for information about his neighbors. He doesn’t know if they tried to leave or not but says the fire exploded so quickly that if they hesitated, they would have had trouble.

“It happened so fast. It would have been such an easy decision to stay, but it was the wrong choice,” Gibson said.

The search for the dead was drawing on portable devices that can identify someone’s genetic material in a couple of hours, rather than days or weeks.

“In many circumstances, without rapid DNA technology, it’s just such a lengthy process,” says Frank DePaolo, a deputy commissioner of the New York City medical examiners’ office, which has been at the forefront of the science of identifying human remains since 9/11 and is exploring how it might use a rapid DNA device.

Still, experts said Tuesday that authorities may first try more traditional methods of identification such as examining dental records. That’s in part because victims might have undergone dental X-rays but not personal DNA profiles. Medical records of bone fractures, prosthetics or implants can also be helpful.

Before the Paradise tragedy, the deadliest single fire on record in California was a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles that killed 29.

At the other end of the state, firefighters made progress against a massive blaze that has killed two people in star-studded Malibu and destroyed well over 400 structures in Southern California .

The flames roared to life again in a mountainous wilderness area Tuesday, sending up a huge plume of smoke near the community of Lake Sherwood. Still, firefighters made gains. The number of people evacuated was down by about half from the day before, to around 100,000, authorities said, and the fire was partially contained.

“We’re getting the upper hand here. We’re feeling better,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

Gov. Jerry Brown said California is “pretty well maxed out” from fighting several deadly wildfires, and he expressed gratitude for help from surrounding states and the federal government. He said the state is doing everything possible to prevent fires, but “some things only God can do.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he canceled a trip to Asia and will visit the fire zones Wednesday and Thursday.

The fire in Northern California charred at least 195 square miles (505 square kilometers), but officials said crews were able to keep it from advancing toward Oroville, a town of about 19,000 people.

The state recently completed a $1.1 billion reconstruction project at the Oroville Dam — the nation’s tallest at 770 feet (235 meters) — and officials worried about damage if flames came through. Spillways at the dam crumbled during heavy rains in 2017, prompting thousands to flee for fear of a catastrophic release of water.

The cause of the fires remained under investigation, but they broke out around the time and place two utilities reported equipment trouble. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who takes office in January, sidestepped questions about what action should be taken against utilities if their power lines are found to be responsible.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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Politics

Michelle Obama Begins Arena Tour in Talk With Oprah

You don’t have permission to access “http://www.usnews.com/news/entertainment/articles/2018-11-13/michelle-obama-begins-arena-tour-in-talk-with-oprah” on this server. Reference #18.a02c8343.1542180053.c37b386

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You don’t have permission to access “http://www.usnews.com/news/entertainment/articles/2018-11-13/michelle-obama-begins-arena-tour-in-talk-with-oprah” on this server.

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