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    A Chester County courtroom was moved to tears Thursday as the parents of a teenage girl who was murdered in a road rage shooting last year demanded maximum prison time for the man who ended her life.

    David Desper will serve at least 20 years in a Pennsylvania prison for the murder of 18-year-old Bianca Roberson. Common Pleas Judge Ann Marie Wheatcraft sentenced the 28-year-old to a maximum of 40 years, but he will be eligible for parole in 2038. 

    Desper, of Trainer, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in September to shooting the college-bound teen in the head as they jockeyed for position along Route 100 in June 2017. Roberson was killed instantly. Her car swerved off the highway and into the woods as Desper fled. He went to a friend's house in Delaware and hid for several days before turning himself in.

    Chester County Assistant District Attorney Chris Miller noted that during Desper's time hiding, he played mini golf and ate pancakes. 

    "What kind of man shoots a little girl and then eats pancakes?" Miller asked. "Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking. What did the defendant do? He fled."

    At first, Roberson's family thought she died in a tragic accident, but days later they learned it was a bullet that claimed the teen's life. 

    Her parents, Rodney and Michelle Roberson, delivered heartbreaking statements to the court Thursday morning, saying dreams for their daughter's future were ripped apart the day she died.

    "I hate you," Michelle Roberson said to Desper.

    The judge and courtroom staff wiped away tears as she went on, recounting happy moments with her daughter that she will never experience again.

    "All I have left of Bianca is my memories," Rodney Roberson said in a separate statement.

    "My questions for the defendant are simple: Why in God’s name did you shoot my daughter? Because she was young? Because she was black? Because she was a girl? Because you wanted to go first on the road? Because you had a bad day?"

    Desper looked down and cried as Roberson's parents spoke.

    Bianca's grandmother, family friends and a school administrator also delivered statements. Emotions ran so high in the courtroom that, at one point, the judge called a short recess.

    After the break, Desper addressed the courtroom with his hands shackled as he choked back tears. He sobbed while attempting to apologize to the Roberson family. They just shook their heads. Roberson’s mother abruptly left while he spoke.

    "I am so sorry," Desper said. "I would do anything to take it back."

    Earlier, family and friends described the convicted murderer as a "gentle giant" who was kind and always willing to help. His mother, Wendy Desper, said that she wanted to speak with Roberson’s mother "mom to mom."

    "She’s not a mom today because of what my son did," Wendy Desper said, sobbing and clutching a tissue.

    But the judge, who also cried while delivering her own statement, said that Desper could never take back what he did.

    "I don’t believe you were afraid," Judge Wheatcraft said to Desper. "I believe it was anger."

     


     

    Here's Rodney Roberson's full victim impact statement:

    Dear Judge Wheatcraft,

    My name is Rodney Roberson. I am, and forever will be, the father of Bianca Roberson.

    Everybody thinks I am a tough guy. I was raised in West Philadelphia. I enlisted in the United States Army, served honorably, then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and served honorably again. When I finished my service with the Marines, I returned to West Philly, but I quickly saw that there was nothing but trouble there. I then joined the United States Merchant Marines, where I have worked for the last 28 years. We move big ships around the country and world. My work is hard, but it is honest work. So maybe I am a tough guy.

    But not when it came to Bianca. She was my youngest child, my baby. She always could make me smile and make life a little brighter. 

    Let me tell you about my little girl. Bianca was a child who was always happy, and she brought that joy to everyone around her. With adults, she was shy and respectful. With her friends, she was kind, gentle, and funny. To me, she was the smartest and most beautiful young woman in the world. 

    When you are a father, you laugh at your sons, but you worry about your daughters. Who will be there to protect them when you are not around? Will they always be safe? What can you do to make sure they don’t get hurt? Nothing hurts a dad more than his daughter’s tears. 

    Bianca was hard-working and generous. She got a job at the McDonald’s on Gay Street in West Chester. I would go there to eat just to see her working, proud that she had a job. She would whisper to me, “Dad, you have to go home!” But I would just sit and watch her working, smiling at my little girl. Then, when she got her first paycheck, she insisted on taking me out to dinner, just to say thank you for being her father. I told her that I would pay, but she refused, her quiet way of telling me she loved me and that she was growing up. 

    My wife and I decided to raise Bianca in Chester County because it was safe. We didn’t want to risk the violence of West Philadelphia. We wanted her to grow up around nice people in a nice place. 

    We wanted everything for Bianca. I wanted her to go to college, something I never got to do. She was going to Jacksonville University on a scholarship, ready to study crime scene forensics. I wanted her to graduate and get a good job, working in an office and getting paid good money without breaking her back working on the docks. I wanted her to fall in love, get married, and then have kids. She always told me that she was going to have six kids -- three boys and three girls. I wanted to live long enough to spoil my grandchildren.

    All my dreams for Bianca were coming true. Until the day that the defendant murdered by daughter.

    My questions for the defendant are simple. Why in God’s name did you shoot my daughter? Because she was young? Because she was black? Because she was a girl? Because you wanted to go first on the road? Because you had a bad day?

    How do you think your family would feel if somebody had murdered you like you murdered my daughter?

    All I have left of Bianca is my memories. She had a special song that she said was her song just for me – “Dancing With My Father” by Luther Vandross. It is a song about a child whose father died, and about how that child is praying for one more dance with her father. I always teased her that it was such a sad song and I planned on living forever anyway. Here is a little bit of the song: 

    Back when I was a child
    Before life removed all the innocence
    My father would lift me high
    And dance with my mother and me
    And then
    Spin me around ‘till I fell asleep
    Then up the stairs he would carry me
    And I knew for sure
    I was loved

    If I could get another chance
    Another walk
    Another dance with him
    I’d play a song that would never ever end
    How I’d love love love
    To dance with my father again 

    Your Honor, I would love to dance with my daughter again. But I never will.

    Respectfully,
    Rodney Roberson


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    Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump's relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed

    As part of a non-prosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer's parent company, admitted that "Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided."

    The "Statement of Admitted Facts" says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment "in concert with the campaign," and says that Pecker, Cohen, and "at least one other member of the campaign" were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the "other member" was Trump.

    A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen's hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.



    Photo Credit: AP, File

    President Donald Trump listens to a question during a signing ceremony of the President Donald Trump listens to a question during a signing ceremony of the "Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act," in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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    Health officials on Thursday issued an update to their previous warnings about romaine lettuce, urging consumers to find out where their lettuce originated.

    In a statement Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises consumers to "not eat and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any romaine lettuce harvested from certain counties in the Central Coastal growing regions of northern and central California."

    "If you do not know where the romaine is from, do not eat it," the statement says.

    Officials focused especially on three California counties — Monterey, San Benito and Santa Barbara — and warned the public not to "buy, serve, sell, or eat romaine lettuce" from those regions.

    Some romaine lettuce products are now labeled with a harvest location by region. Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should check bags or boxes of romaine lettuce for a label indicating where the lettuce was harvested.

    Read the full warning from the CDC here.



    Photo Credit: Aniko Hobel/Getty Images

    A stock photo shows romaine lettuce on blue backdrop.A stock photo shows romaine lettuce on blue backdrop.

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    An unusual looking plane designed to take tourists to space is being tested in Southern California's Mojave Desert.

    Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic

    Virgin Galactic's Space Ship Unity is carried aloft by a plane, then detaches and fires up its rockets for a near-vertical climb to the edge of space.Virgin Galactic's Space Ship Unity is carried aloft by a plane, then detaches and fires up its rockets for a near-vertical climb to the edge of space.

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    A Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Thursday sentenced a suspected serial burglar to additional jail time for violating the terms of court-supervised release that followed prison terms for burglary and weapons possession.

    Anthony Rauda, 42, was ordered to serve 180 days in County jail for being caught with a gun and ammunition. Rauda was given 130 days credit for the time he's already been in jail since his arrest near Malibu Creek State Park in October.

    Rauda was brought into a downtown LA court room strapped to a wheeled chair with a mesh "spit-guard" over his head.

    In late November, Rauda was sentenced to 160 days for violating the terms of his post-release-conviction-supervision, or PRCS, by being arrested by LA County Sheriff's detectives as a result of the serial burglary investigation. That sentence and the new sentence will be served simultaneously, the court said.

    LA County Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau detectives caught Rauda in a wilderness area north of the park Oct. 10 after a series of unusual early-morning break-ins, during which an armed, masked burglar stole food from a number of buildings in the area.

    Major Crimes and Homicide Bureau detectives have been investigating whether Rauda could also be responsible for a series of seemingly-random shootings in the same area over the last two years, including the killing of camper Tristan Beaudette in June.

    No new criminal charges have been filed in those cases.

    During Thursday's hearing a Sheriff's detective testified that when Rauda was arrested he had the rifle and two loaded 9mm magazines in his backpack, along with a plastic bag filled with additional live rounds.

    The armed, masked man on the security video became the focus of an intensive wilderness manhunt after an early-morning burglary Sept. 30 at a construction office near the intersection of Las Virgenes and Mulholland Highway.

    Security cameras captured video of a masked man with a rifle slung over his left shoulder prying open a window and climbing inside. NBC News obtained still images from that video that showed the burglar was wearing a battery-powered headlamp and tactical-style clothing. Investigators also told NBC4 that food was stolen, but valuables including cash were left behind.

    The break-in was similar to several other food thefts in the same area, authorities said, leading detectives to consider whether the burglar was hiding out somewhere in the brush-covered hills of Malibu.

    The gun seen on the security video also raised questions about whether the burglar could be responsible for a some of the seemingly random shootings reported in the same area over the last year, including the killing of Beaudette, who was shot while he slept next to his 2- and 4-year-old daughters in a closed tent at Malibu Creek State Park.



    Photo Credit: KNBC-TV

    Security cameras captured video of a masked man with a rifle slung over his left shoulder in a series of unusual break-ins.Security cameras captured video of a masked man with a rifle slung over his left shoulder in a series of unusual break-ins.

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    A 22-year-old woman and a 17-year-old boy were arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the death of "Baby Jane Doe," an infant discovered dead on the side of a Southern California highway in July.

    The newborn girl known as "Baby Jane Doe" was found July 27 in the area of Cajalco Road and Interstate 15 in Corona. She was wrapped in a T-shirt with a stripe and flower pattern inside a cardboard box.

    The cause of death is undetermined, the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner’s Department said.

    Shawna Andritch, 22-year-old resident of Corona, and a 17-year-old boy, also from Corona, were interviewed in connection with the infant's death Dec. 7. They were arrested on suspicion of murder, Corona police said.

    A funeral was held Dec. 6 for "Baby Jane Doe," as Corona police officers and firefighters along with community members buried the infant at Sunnyslope Cemetery.

    After the funeral, detectives said they received a tip about the case. That tip led them to Andritch and the unidentified teen.

    Statements made during an interview led to their arrests, police said.

    Authorities reminded the community during the funeral that parents can safely surrender infants within 72 hours of birth, no questions asked, at police stations, fire stations and hospitals.



    Photo Credit: Corona Police Department

    Corona police announced the arrest of Shawna Andritch, 22-year-old resident of Corona, and a 17-year-old juvenile male, also from Corona, in connection with the death of Corona police announced the arrest of Shawna Andritch, 22-year-old resident of Corona, and a 17-year-old juvenile male, also from Corona, in connection with the death of "Baby Jane Doe."

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    Russian operative Maria Butina, who is accused of infiltrating politically powerful U.S. organizations, including the National Rifle Association, in an effort to push Moscow's agenda, pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy count, NBC News reported.

    Butina has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C., courtroom to one count of conspiracy to violate the law governing foreign agents operating in the United States. The felony carries a five-year prison term, but the estimated sentencing guideline range is from zero to six months in prison.

    Butina was arrested in July and has been held without bail and could face deportation after serving any prison sentence. She had been in the U.S. on a student visa and Judge Tanya Chutkan on Thursday that Butina could face supervised release if she stays in the country.

    Thursday's guilty plea means she is admitting to conspiring with an unnamed American to act at the direction of a Russian official "to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics … for the benefit of the Russian Federation," according to a plea agreement.



    Photo Credit: AP, File

    In this April 21, 2013, file photo, Maria Butina speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia.In this April 21, 2013, file photo, Maria Butina speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia.

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    It can feel like the month of December is positively awash in special afternoons, for the number of convivial events and festive happenings has a way of blooming like a whole row of amaryllis bulbs.

    But as for a "very special afternoon," one that gives back, that lets our neighbors know we care, and lends some lively conversation to a lively local spot?

    That's flowering on Sunday, Dec. 16, at Boomtown Brewery, and it indeed earns its "very," for it is doing something quite nice and quite needed.

    The very special afternoon is a fundraiser for fire relief, with 100% of the ticket proceeds benefiting the California Fire Foundation, which in turn helps so many Californians following the devastation of a fire.

    The cost? It's twenty bucks, and, yep, that includes your first beer.

    The line-up of performers? Dave Yaden & Friends, Robot Natures, and several other musician will keep the six-hour sip-and-support-tacular feeling the good grooves.

    Stoked California BBQ and Evolution Burger will be on hand to add meat or not-meat (Evolution is vegan) to your afternoon.

    An afternoon that will begin at 2 p.m. and wrap up at 8 o'clock.

    Have you already enjoyed a few special afternoons this month? Best make for a "very special afternoon," which will help many of our fellow Golden Staters, near and far, following the fires.

    Details and more may be found at the DTLA brewery's social pages.



    Photo Credit: N. Gingold/Boomtown Brewery

    Swing by a foamy fundraiser at Boomtown Brewery on Sunday, Dec. 16, and know that all ticket proceeds will be donated to the California Fire Foundation, which in turn helps those impacted by the recent wildfires.Swing by a foamy fundraiser at Boomtown Brewery on Sunday, Dec. 16, and know that all ticket proceeds will be donated to the California Fire Foundation, which in turn helps those impacted by the recent wildfires.

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    An Orange County couple collectively lost 250 pounds through UCI's Health Weight Management Program.

    Photo Credit: Courtesy UCI

    Michael Bare and his wife Lorna Wimberly collectively lost 250 pounds. The photo on the left was taken in December 2012 and the photo on the right was taken in November 2018.Michael Bare and his wife Lorna Wimberly collectively lost 250 pounds. The photo on the left was taken in December 2012 and the photo on the right was taken in November 2018.

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    Las Posadas: Most multi-night events that pop up tend to extend to two evenings, or perhaps three, but this annual tradition, which is found in cities throughout the Southwest, Mexico, and beyond, can appear for well over a week. And this one shall, as it always does, beginning its nine-night run at Olvera Street on Sunday, Dec. 16. Mary and Joseph are on the search for an inn, there are old canciones revisited, a piñata for the kids each night, as well free champuraddo, mmm.

    Parade of Lights: If it is a weekend night in December before Christmas, chances are as bright as Rudolph's nose that there are boats, just offshore, wearing festive finery. Ventura is up next, on Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15, but the boats aren't the sole focus. You may see Santa and Mrs. Claus in the Village, or you could hop on a Ferris wheel, or you might want to join one of the pre-parade happenings near the action. Details and times? Make waves, in this direction, for more.

    Holiday Spectacular: So you adore every show from the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, but, come the end of the year, you're searching for traditional carols and panache-filled spins on the season? GMCLA can absolutely help you on this front, for the group's super-festive, song-strong extravaganza pays respectful homage to the holidays while also getting pretty cheeky on the cheer front. Be at The Alex in Glendale on Saturday, Dec. 15 and Sunday, Dec. 16 for the joy, the costumed cameos, and this ever-joyful gem.

    Christmas Festivities at the Original Farmers Market: The iconic clock towers are don up in lovely lights and the big tree is covered in small, green ornaments that pay homage to the landmark's famous shopping baskets. It must be time for all-out merrymaking at the corner of Third & Fairfax. And while Dec. 17 through 24 brims with carolers, mariachis, snow globe crafts, and more, the yuletide doings will start on Saturday, Dec. 15 with Christmas Karaoke on the West Patio. More? You bet.

    Holidays at Malibu Country Mart: The weather is looking pretty darn fine, if not exactly balmy, on Saturday, Dec. 15, which means it'll be an ideal day for spending outside, all while listening to carols, visiting with a certain Mr. Claus, and soaking up that Malibu-style sunshine. Look also for "festive arts & crafts" and more, but be not sad if you can't make it. It'll return on Saturday, Dec. 22, this time with a reindeer as the star guest. Just don't forget a toy to donate, if you go (you're going).



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Las Posadas, the annual search for the inn told in song, costume, and story, will take place at Olvera Street, over nine nights, beginning on Sunday, Dec. 16.Las Posadas, the annual search for the inn told in song, costume, and story, will take place at Olvera Street, over nine nights, beginning on Sunday, Dec. 16.

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    A divided U.S. appeals court Thursday blocked rules by the Trump administration that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.

    The ruling, however, may be short lived because the administration has adopted new rules on contraceptive coverage that are set to take effect next month and will likely prompt renewed legal challenges.

    Thursday's ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned changes to birth control coverage requirements under President Barack Obama's health care law that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued in October 2017.

    States were likely to succeed on their claim that those changes were made without required notice and public comment, the appeals court panel said in a 2-1 decision.

    The majority upheld a preliminary injunction against the rules issued by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam last year. It, however, limited the scope of the injunction, applying it only to the five states in the lawsuit and not the entire country.

    Another federal judge also blocked the rules, and her nationwide injunction remains in place.

    An email to the Justice Department seeking comment was not immediately returned.

    Obama's health care law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy allowed more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious objections. It also allowed any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.

    The Department of Justice said in court documents that the rules were about protecting a small group of "sincere religious and moral objectors" from having to violate their beliefs. The changes were favored by social conservatives who are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump.

    California filed a lawsuit to block the changes that was joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

    The states argued that the changes could result in millions of women losing free birth control services, forcing them to seek contraceptive care through state-run programs or programs that the states had to reimburse.

    The states show with "reasonable probability" that the new rules will lead women to lose employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, "which will then result in economic harm to the states," 9th Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace, a nominee of Republican President Richard Nixon, wrote for the majority.

    In a dissent, 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said the economic harm to the states was "self-inflicted" because they chose to provide contraceptive coverage to women. The states, therefore, did not have the authority to bring the lawsuit, Kleinfeld, a nominee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, said.

    The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit. Under the new rules, large companies whose stock is sold to investors won't be able to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage.

    Wallace said the new rules did not make the case before the 9th Circuit moot because they are not set to take effect until January.



    Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images

    Vaginal Ring, Intra Uterine Device, Contraceptive Implant And Pills.Vaginal Ring, Intra Uterine Device, Contraceptive Implant And Pills.

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    The Geminid meteor shower lights up the night sky each December, and this week it will be at its most visible, according to a NASA blog post

    The Geminid meteors become active when Earth passes through a particularly massive trail of rocky space debris. When this debris enters Earth's atmosphere, it burns up and lights up the sky with "shooting stars." 

    The debris comes from a strange rocky object named 3200 Phaethon.

    To catch a peek of the fiery rocks, you'll have to find the darkest place you can, as many of the fainter meteors will be invisible due to light pollution. Still, NASA predicts that those in suburbs may see 30-40 meteors per hour, with varying changes depending on how close you are to a city. 

    NASA recommends looking for them after 10:30 p.m. local time. The peak of this year's shower is expected on Thursday and Friday, around 2 a.m. local time. 

    You can look out for when the meteors will be visible in your neighborhood at this link.



    Photo Credit: Dr. Scott M. Lieberman/AP, File

    A meteor is seen streaking left to right above the constellation Orion in the early hours of Dec. 14, 2012, in the sky above Tyler, Texas. The meteor is part of the Geminid meteor shower, which will have its 2018 peak this Thursday and Friday.A meteor is seen streaking left to right above the constellation Orion in the early hours of Dec. 14, 2012, in the sky above Tyler, Texas. The meteor is part of the Geminid meteor shower, which will have its 2018 peak this Thursday and Friday.

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    Jurors in the civil case stemming from a 2012 drunken driving crash that killed a Dallas Cowboys player say his best friend and the now-defunct bar they visited are equally responsible for his death and have awarded his mother $25 million.

    On Dec. 8, 2012, Josh Brent and Jerry Brown Jr, best friends and teammates with the Cowboys, left the Beamers nightclub in Brent’s Mercedes. Brent, who was driving, rolled the car while driving 110 mph in Irving a few minutes after leaving the club.

    Brent's BAC that night was .189 — more than two times the legal limit. Brown's family sued the bar visited by Brent and Brown, saying they were overserved, and named Brent a party to the lawsuit.

    Under a Texas law, known commonly as the "Dram Shop Act," a business that sells and/or serves alcohol can be liable for any damages or injuries that occur if it's proven they provided alcohol to an "obviously intoxicated" person.

    After deliberating about five hours Thursday, jurors decided Beamers and Brent were each 48 percent responsible for the fatal crash and that Brown was 4 percent responsible for his own death.

    Brown's mother, Stacy Jackson, was awarded $25 million in the civil suit; the lawsuit had sought up to $95 million in damages, mostly from the bar.

    "I can't be more grateful or thankful and I'm sure Jerry's looking down and happy," Jackson said. "It weighs on my heart because you dont want no other family to go through what I have been through ... because, you know, us as parents we prepare our children for us passing away you dont prepare yourself for seeing them going before you."Lawyers for Brown’s family and his estate told the jury that Beamers should have done more to monitor how much Brent was drinking before he got behind the wheel.

    Testimony during the trial pointed to surveillance video inside Beamers and to liquor bottles on the table. Lawyers questioned how much Brent may have served himself when he and other teammates partied together with bottle service.

    “It’s not enough to say we close our eyes, we did not see anything else,” said Charla Aldous, attorney for the plaintiff. “No, it is your duty to monitor.”

    The defense, representing the bar, argued Brent was not obviously drunk at Beamers and was not illegally over-served by the staff. The defense told the jury that Brent is the person responsible for Brown’s death.

    Brent was in court one day to offer testimony. He is also listed as a defendant in the case. Monday, he told the jury Jackson has forgiven him and they remain close. He did not mount a defense in the civil trial. He testified he could not afford to bring an attorney.



    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

    Wednesday afternoon, jurors heard closing arguments in the civil case stemming from a 2012 drunk driving crash, Wednesday, December 12, 2018.Wednesday afternoon, jurors heard closing arguments in the civil case stemming from a 2012 drunk driving crash, Wednesday, December 12, 2018.

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    President Donald Trump's inaugural committee is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for pay to play and misspending some of the $107 million it raised from donations, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

    The paper, citing people familiar with the investigation, said the probe was launched by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, NBC News reported.

    The investigation, which is reportedly in its early stages, is looking into whether some of the committee's top donors gave money to gain access to the incoming Trump administration to influence policy positions, which could be a violation of anti-corruption laws.

    NBC News has not independently verified the Journal report.



    Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP, File

    In this Jan. 20, 2017 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump arrives during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.In this Jan. 20, 2017 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump arrives during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

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    A rifle carried by a suspect who was shot dead by police in Torrance turned out to be a pellet gun with an altered stock, authorities said Thursday.

    Christopher Mitchell, 23, of Los Angeles died at the scene of the officer-involved shooting about 8 p.m. Sunday in the Ralphs parking lot at 1770 Carson St., authorities said.

    Mitchell was armed with a rifle and sitting in a black 2000 Honda Civic that had been reported stolen when he was fatally shot, Torrance Police Sgt. Ronald Harris said.

    Officers were on patrol about 7:25 p.m. Sunday near 220th Street and Western Avenue when they were flagged down by a man who told them his vehicle was stolen two days earlier and he saw it being driven near Carson Street and Western Avenue, Harris said.

    The officers located the vehicle in the Ralphs lot, he said.

    "Upon approaching the vehicle to conduct their investigation, officers were met by an adult male who was armed with a rifle, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred,'' the sergeant said.

    The officers performed life-saving measures on the wounded man, but he died on site, Harris said.

    The Honda had been stolen on Friday, Harris confirmed.

    "Investigators also examined the rifle recovered at the scene and identified it as a Crosman Phantom 1000 air rifle with what appears to have an altered buttstock,'' Harris said.

    The Special Operations Bureau of the Torrance Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office are investigating the shooting, Harris said.



    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Family

    Sherlyn Haynes, the mother of 23-year-old Christopher De'Andre Mitchell, who was killed by Torrance police after officers said he was holding a rifle that turned out to be a pellet gun, shared his image from GoFundMe with NBC4.Sherlyn Haynes, the mother of 23-year-old Christopher De'Andre Mitchell, who was killed by Torrance police after officers said he was holding a rifle that turned out to be a pellet gun, shared his image from GoFundMe with NBC4.

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    The Zen Master has returned.

    Phil Jackson, the 11-time NBA Champion as a head coach, will not be gracing the Los Angeles Lakers sidelines anytime soon. However, as the team climbs its way back into championship contention, the NBA legend returned to the team he helped guide to five titles on Wednesday afternoon.

    Jackson was spotted at the team's practice facility in El Segundo during the team's shootaround before heading out on a four-game road trip. According to reports, it was the first time in more than two years Jackson had visited the facility.

    Despite the lengthy absence, ut shouldn't come as that big of a surprise that Jackson was spotted around the Lakers. Not only did he coach the Lakers from 1999-2004 and again from 2005-2011, but he famously was engaged to Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss until they announced their split in December of 2016.

    Jackson is also good friends with Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, as well as Kurt Rambis, the team's current senior basketball adviser.

    Additionally, Jackson was the coach and mentor for current Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who played for Jackson in nine of his 11 years as a player in the league.

    "I have not talked to Phil today, no, but if that's him, I'll head upstairs," said Walton when asked by the media on Wednesday if he'd seen or spoken to Jackson yet. "…Even the one year I semi-retired, Phil's someone I like to stay in constant communication with."

    One player that might have avoided Jackson is Lakers superstar LeBron James. It's unknown if Jackson spoke to James, but the two have a somewhat contentious relationship after Jackson referred to James and his longtime friends and business parnters as a "posse." James said he was offended by the comments.

    Jackson was last in the league as the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. The 73-year-old signed a five-year, $60 million contract in 2014, but was fired after just three seasons.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Phil Jackson, was spotted at the team's practice facility in El Segundo, CA on Wednesday, December 12, 2018.Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Phil Jackson, was spotted at the team's practice facility in El Segundo, CA on Wednesday, December 12, 2018.

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    Anticipation is rising along with the waves as surfing fans in the Bay Area and around the world wait to see if the Mavericks big-wave surfing contest will take place next week as many hope.

    On Thursday, surfers were told it won't happen Monday as initially thought, and organizers were evaluating Tuesday as a possibility. The biggest issue is the wind making conditions dangerous.

    Meanwhile, a big focus on this year's Mavericks is the first-ever women’s competition. It will be a historic moment for women surfers and their fans.

    If and when the World Surfing League pinpoints a day in which ideal conditions green light the contest, the elite big-wave surfers will have 48 hours to show up.

    This year, top women competitors will be among those taking on the massive waves, competing against each other for equal prize money.

    "I don’t really see that many women doing it that often, so I think it’s awesome that the sport is growing to that population as well," surfing fan Allie Vacar said.

    Fan Taylor Scornavacco added: "For women to be out here doing what the men are doing is a really cool thing, and I think that it’s good for the sport, and it’s good for the exposure of surfing in general."

    San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan helped lead the local fight to include women and equal pay.

    "All of the women athletes have stuck together, and they’ve really been unified in their message," Brennan said. "They’ve worked hard to make this happen."

    But adding up to a dozen more surfers will be a challenge for Mavericks contest format.

    "Some of the other places that the Big Wave Surf Tour goes have two-day windows, and we only have one day," Deputy Harbor Master Cary Smith said. "So we really have to get that in and hope that for the contest those waves materialize between the hours of 8-to-5."

    Some of the surfers were out practicing Thursday, giving it their best and hoping for the best.



    Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

    Surfers are getting ready for the Mavericks big-wave surfing contest, likely happening next week. (Dec. 13, 2019)Surfers are getting ready for the Mavericks big-wave surfing contest, likely happening next week. (Dec. 13, 2019)

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    Actress Cybill Shepherd said her 1990s CBS sitcom was pulled after she turned down advances from now-former network head Les Moonves, an experience she called "very painful," NBC News reported.

    "My show could have run another five years, but I didn't fall on the right side of Les," she said during an interview on SiriusXM's The Michelle Collins Show that aired Wednesday.

    Shepherd said that during a dinner date Moonves began telling her that his wife and mistress didn't "turn him on" and he asked to take her home.

    Soon after she turned him down she was not allowed into the editing room to work on the final two episodes of her series, she said.

    A request for comment by NBC News to Moonves’ lawyer and representative were not immediately returned. Moonves has been accused of sexual misconduct by 12 women and denied the allegations.

    The CBS board has until the end of January to decide whether to deny his $120 severance package.



    Photo Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File

    This April 21, 2016, file photo shows Cybill Shepherd at the Beacon Theatre in New York.This April 21, 2016, file photo shows Cybill Shepherd at the Beacon Theatre in New York.

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    Lanes on the southbound 110 Freeway were closed Friday morning due to an overturned sport utility vehicle.

    The fiery crash was reported near Exposition Boulevard. No major injuries were reported. 

    Traffic was backing up to Dodger Stadium.



    Photo Credit: KNBC-TV

    Three lanes on the southbound 110 Freeway were closed Friday Dec. 14, 2018 due to an overturned sport utility vehicle.Three lanes on the southbound 110 Freeway were closed Friday Dec. 14, 2018 due to an overturned sport utility vehicle.

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    The pregnant girl was terrified when she was hit by a burning stream of pepper spray fired by a Los Angeles County probation officer trying to break up a fight involving others at a juvenile hall.

    She couldn't breathe.

    The chili pepper-infused chemical burned her skin.

    "I thought I was going to die," the girl said later, in a recollection recorded in documents obtained by NBC4. "I was scared... It was a terrible day."

    The girl and her baby were OK, but her account, documented in a 2016 county audit, highlights a growing trend. Probation officers in LA County are using more pepper spray — the highest level of force used within juvenile detention facilities — than they have in years.

    The LA County Probation Department recorded 747 uses of pepper spray in 2017 at juvenile halls and camps, a jump of 154 percent over 2015 when the department used pepper spray 294 times, according to an analysis of department data. It appears that trend is likely to continue, as between January and July of this year the department reported 404 such uses of force. These uses of force were recorded at the county's juvenile halls and camps which house about 800 males and females ranging in age from 12 to 20, with the average age of 16.

    This is a department that has had this problem before. It was under federal oversight for years for how it has treated juveniles in custody, and the department dramatically dropped its pepper spray use during that time. But once the feds left, the number began climbing again.

    It's become so troubling that Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Wednesday called for the county's Inspector General to investigate.

    "It's pretty clear there are substantial concerns," Ridley-Thomas said. "We're at a point where the board of supervisors can no longer wait to find out what's really going on."

    The motion will be introduced at the County Board of Supervisors meeting next week. If passed, the OIG will report findings to the board in 45 days.

    Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald said she welcomes the investigation, saying in a statement, "I defer to the wisdom of the board and I continue to support and welcome independent reviews of our systems and processes as we are a department focused on self-correction and accountability."

    A nine-month investigation by NBC4 sheds light on some of the incidents and found the increase comes at a time when many agencies across the country are either banning or restricting pepper spray use in juvenile lockups.

    'Back to Business as Usual'

    Agencies across the country that have banned or restricted pepper spray say it's  ineffective, counter to rehabilitation, bad for health and a potential liability.

    The chemical can cause swelling, blistering, scarring, wheezing, and respiratory arrest. It can be particularly dangerous for people who have asthma or who are on psychotropic medication. Its effects can be exacerbated in confined spaces like county lockups.

    The spike in LA comes amid a historic drop in juvenile detention populations during a major national reform push toward diversion and rehabilitation and away from juvenile incarceration.

    LA County Probation has had a long history of U.S. Department of Justice investigations and monitoring for the way it treats juveniles in lockups, including punitive, excessive uses of pepper spray, dating back to at least 2000.

    "The fact that this issue is resurfacing to this degree is very troubling," said Sue Burrell, the policy and training director for the nonprofit Pacific Juvenile Defender Center. "It sounds like when the DOJ left, they went back to business as usual."

    Ridley-Thomas, who is spearheading a new reform push, said he's deeply concerned, but stopped short of saying whether pepper spray should be banned.

    "The skyrocketing numbers with pepper spray can't be a sign of what makes this the kind of probation department that it needs to be," he said. "The mandate is rehabilitation."

    'Different Job Today'

    Department officials attribute the spike to an increase in attacks by juveniles on probation staff.

    But officials also admit some probation officers are living in the past.

    "Some of the officers still want to live in the model of custody and control," said David Mitchell, the Los Angeles County Probation Department's deputy director of the residential treatment services bureau. "This is a different job than it was 10 years ago. We have different tools to work with these kids. Part of that is relationship building."

    The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 685, the union that represents LA County deputy probation officers, says officers feel they're not adequately trained to handle an increasingly dangerous workplace.

    "LA County's professional probation staff have consistently spoken out about the unsafe conditions in the halls and camps, the lack of training, support, and mentoring provided by the department, and the hostile work environment that has demoralized staff," said Hans Liang, the interim president of AFSCME Local 685, in a statement. "This toxic work environment — and the unwillingness of department leadership and their direct supervisors to listen to the concerns expressed by seasoned officers — has directly impacted our ability to rehabilitate the youth in our care."

    Thomas Bell, an LA County probation officer, echoed the statement in a probation reform meeting on Wednesday.

    "When we got 20 kids who are about my size fighting in the yard or somewhere, how do we break that up if we don't have pepper spray?" he asked the panel. "How do we break that up, keep them from killing each other?"

    'You Feel Like Your Body is on Fire'

    The department denied several California Public Records Act requests seeking summaries of uses of pepper spray — even with names of juveniles and officers redacted, citing juvenile and peace officer privacy laws, making it difficult to know how the department handles such cases. But interviews with teens as part of a county audit in November 2016 offer a glimpse inside.

    "You feel like your body is on fire," a teen told an interviewer.

    "It was hard to breathe," said another, according to the audit.

    Some kids break out in welts, another said.

    "I've seen a lot of kids break out," a teen said, according to the report.

    Another kid said he saw a probation officer accidentally spray himself, twice. The first time, the teen said, the spray got in the officer's eyes and kids helped him to the bathroom so he could wash his eyes out in the sink.

    A teen at Camp Onizuka said an officer pepper sprayed him out of the view of surveillance cameras after telling him, "I'm going to spray you and then I'm going to f--- you up."

    He said that when he brought up the incident with a judge, he was threatened to be sprayed again and was sent to isolation by the officer who sprayed him.

    The pregnant girl said the officer who sprayed her apologized.

    The names of the teens' interviewed as part of the audit were kept confidential and their accounts couldn't be independently verified.

    "The goal of this report was to directly hear the unfiltered voices of youth in probation camps without any other juvenile justice stakeholder's involvement, while protecting the confidentiality of youths' identities," said the audit conducted by the Violence Intervention Program, a child abuse agency based in Oakland. "As mandated reporters, VIP did not find any incidents from the interviews where the youth was in imminent danger of harm which would have required immediate disclosure of the relevant portions of the youth's conversation."

    The probation department said in a statement it takes all allegations of abuse and violations of policy seriously.

    "However, when we get reports without youth names or dates of allegations, it is very difficult for us to cross-check whether the allegations made at the time and the researchers protect the anonymity of the persons being surveyed," the department said.

    "The vagueness of these allegations also make it difficult to investigate. As with all allegations, we seek additional facts and often times the allegations are not able to be sustained."

    Kent Mendoza says he was pepper sprayed 10 different times while in juvenile lockups.

    The former gang member who now works at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, a nonprofit that supports formerly incarcerated young people in the region, described one instance when he was pepper sprayed during a fight between two boys at a county juvenile facility.

    "The staff, what they did like was, 'Get down! Get down!'" he said. "Ten seconds pass and if nothing happens and they don't stop fighting, they start pepper spraying."

    Pepper Spray is a Last Resort

    LA County Probation is the largest such agency in the country, with a $1 billion budget. It supervises 40,000 adults and about 8,000 juveniles, more than 800 of whom are held in the halls and camps across the county.

    More than 1,300 probation officers at three juvenile halls and three camps across LA County are authorized to carry pepper spray, the highest level of force used by the department.

    Guns aren't permitted in halls and camps.

    The department uses an escalating scale of force, ranging from least restrictive — verbal and physical — to most restrictive — pepper spray — to quell serious disturbances, riots or assaults on teens or staff.

    Probation officers can only use pepper spray as a last resort and only after all other methods to de-escalate crises have failed, according to department policy.

    The policy states that after an incident, those who are sprayed are required to get medical treatment while personnel involved are required to submit reports that are reviewed to determine whether the use of force was warranted.

    But written policies don't always translate into intended practice, said a 2011 report on pepper spray use from the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, a national nonprofit working to improve juvenile correctional services.

    "Most of the anecdotal information about use of restraints that is made public are reports of abuse and dangerous practices, investigations and litigation," the report said.

    California Had Opportunity to Restrict Pepper Spray Use

    California is out of step with the rest of the country, Burrell said. California is one of a little more than a dozen states that allow the use of pepper spray in juvenile facilities.

    It's one of only five states that allow staff to carry pepper spray, according to a report from the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators.

    California had a chance to restrict it earlier this year, through Assembly Bill 2010. But probation officers cried foul, saying that without it, the lives of officers and kids would be in danger.

    "If you enact AB2010, then you should be prepared to lower the staffing ratios, repeal the restrictions on room confinement, and separate the more serious offenders from other juvenile offenders," Alberto Torrico, a lobbyist with the State Coalition of Probation Organizations, testified at a state assembly public safety hearing in April.

    "You should be prepared to accept that the only means you are leaving officers to ensure the safety of all juveniles in these facilities is physical force and intervention. That is the reality this bill creates, not a violence-free nirvana the sponsor's portraying."

    Pepper Spray Use Varies Across California

    San Francisco bans it. Allen Nance, the agency's chief juvenile probation officer, said there's an expectation that if pepper spray is available, it will be used.

    "Since there is no culture on the part of the youth or the staff for such use, other efforts to manage the behavior of detained youth continue to be an effective alternative to such uses of force," Nance said. "By incentivizing positive behavior, we see fewer incidents of aggression and other forms of noncompliance from our youth."

    The Santa Clara County Probation Department also bans pepper spray in juvenile facilities. The agency has a so-called Crisis Diffusion Policy that helps officers recognize and deal with signs of oncoming crises before they escalate. Staff should allow a child to talk and the officer should listen, the policy states.

    The policy also spells out expectations of officers saying they should be calm, direct, and should talk about consequences, but make no threats.

    "Don't tell them to 'be quiet' or 'shut up,' or talk while they are speaking. Instead, allow them to feel heard," the policy states. "Group Counselors should refrain from becoming escalated themselves."

    These agencies are much smaller than LA, but it's possible to operate safe juvenile lockups in big urban areas without pepper spray, such as Philadelphia, Boston and Memphis that don't use pepper spray, said Mark Soler, the executive director of the Center for Children's Law and Policy, a national public interest law firm that makes recommendations for reforms of juvenile justice systems across the country.

    He said he's not surprised that assaults on staff at LA juvenile lockups is up.

    "If you treat human beings like animals, it's not surprising they react violently," he said. "Use of pepper spray is never justified with a young person."

    LA Tries Reform Again

    A 500-page $1 million LA Probation Governance Study released in February put out a laundry list of problems at the Probation Department. Juvenile halls, the study said, are run down, beyond repair in some cases, and are a danger to youth. The report describes barracks-style halls and camps and punitive, prison-like conditions.

    It said Central Juvenile Hall, which department data showed had the highest number of uses of pepper spray among all of the county juvenile facilities, was "unfit for housing young people and a terrible environment for staff."

    The department noted recent upgrades at Central, including a family resource center, new cameras and a renovated unit that treats emotionally-fragile youth. The unit includes brightly colored housing rooms, a small library, and space outdoors with brightly colored benches, and a small floral garden.

    The report also found the department lacked leadership stability, was siloed, had problematic training gaps and was resistant to change. It found dysfunction and bureaucratic loops, and inefficient and outdated systems to track down information and data to make the department more accountable.

    The report found that facilities look like jails.

    As one teen put it in the report: "When I was coming up through the hall, we didn't have any resources besides the church. All I learned in the hall was fighting and gangbanging... Nothing went on but fighting and gangbanging."

    A new LA County Probation Reform and Implementation Team, made up of policy and community leaders, began meeting this year for the first time. The team's goal is to form a new probation oversight commission, to replace the existing one, that would make recommendations to county supervisors.

    In a letter to county supervisors in September, the head of the probation department says the agency is working on a "20-year strategy for juvenile facilities."

    But a turnaround will be a big challenge for a department long-resistant to change. Earlier reform efforts failed for a lack of will locally and nationally, Ridley-Thomas said.

    "Cultural change of a department this large is clearly not easy," Ridley-Thomas said at the inaugural meeting of the reform team in August. "Reform must be addressed and it must be addressed with urgency, decisiveness and intentionality."

    Mendoza said it's not about policy, it's about people.

    "I wasn't born to be a criminal," he said. "There's factors that led to me. And now I am in the system. The staff has some of the responsibility to also find some kind of connection."



    Photo Credit: KNBC-TV
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