sunstock/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Thursday that his office has sent cease-and-desist letters to retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Kmart, urging them to stop selling toy guns that break New York state law by lacking distinguishing designs from the real thing.
"When toy guns are mistaken for real guns," Schneiderman said, "there can be tragic consequences." The law prohibits the sale of toy guns in realistic colors -- such as black, blue, silver or aluminum -- unless it has a non-removable, one-inch-wide orange stripe running down the sides and front end of the barrel.
"New York State law is clear," Schneiderman added, "retailers cannot put children and law enforcement at risk by selling toy guns that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing."
Schneiderman's office also sent cease-and-desist letters to ToyArsenal.com and Sears.
At least four people have been killed and one child seriously injured since 1997 due to law enforcement officers mistaking toy guns for real guns.
FBI(BOSTON) -- With a slight, scruffy beard and long, tousled hair, accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in federal court Thursday -- the first time he’s been seen in public in a year and a half.
The 21-year-old politely answered the judge’s questions in a final status conference, what is expected to be his last pretrial hearing before jury selection in his case begins in January.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to a litany of charges connected to twin explosions that ripped through the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing three, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring more than 260 others.
Investigators say that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planted the bombs and followed the horrific attack up with a series of other crimes.
Four days after the explosions, investigators say, the Tsarnaevs murdered MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, carjacked a Mercedes SUV driver, and led police on a high-speed chase in Watertown where a bomb and bullet battle erupted in the street. Tamerlan was killed in the firefight.
Dzhokhar fled the scene and hid for more than 16 hours until his capture on a dry-docked boat, where he appeared to explain his motive for the crime with a note written inside, according to prosecutors.
“We Muslims are one body. You hurt one of us you hurt us all," read part of a note allegedly written by Tsarnaev on the wall of the boat amid bullet holes. “Know you are fighting men who look into the barrel [of] your gun and see heaven.”
Court documents filed in March gave a potential hint of at least part of the defense strategy Tsarnaev’s legal team could use: saying Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was under the control of his older brother -- “an all-powerful force who could not be ignored or disobeyed.”
iStock/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wis.) -- Two Wisconsin girls who allegedly stabbed a friend over Slender Man were found competent on Thursday to stand trial.
A Wisconsin judge found 13-year-old Anissa Weier competent, while the second suspect, Morgan Geyser, waived her right to a hearing and was, as a result, ruled competent.
Testimony from three doctors who evaluated Weier -- one hired by the prosecution, the other two by her defense -- presented their findings before the judge.
The prosecution's doctor found her competent, while the defense's doctors found her incompetent.
When Weier herself was asked by Judge Michael Bohren if she considered herself competent, Weier said, "I consider myself incompetent, sir."
By stating such, under Wisconsin law, Weier set a very high burden of proof for the prosecution to clear and the judge ruled that they had met the burden.
Later in the day, a second hearing to determine Geyser's competency was waived by the teen's lawyers, agreeing with a doctor's opinion that she is competent. The judge agreed and as a result Geyser was ruled to be in fact competent.
According to investigators, Geyser and Weier from Waukesha, Wisconsin, decided they wanted to be with Slender Man, a fictional horror character born from a dark corner of the Internet.
In stories they read about him online, Slender Man kidnaps and kills children. Not only did the girls believe he was real, police said, they were convinced the only way to get in his good graces was to kill someone.
But Slender Man isn’t real. And their friend, a girl named Payton Leutner, survived being stabbed last May with a large kitchen knife 19 times.
KCEN/Facebook(WACO, Texas) -- Police in Texas don't have a suspect or a motive in the shooting of a TV meteorologist in the station's parking lot on Wednesday.
The suspect fled on foot as the weatherman was able to drive a short distance in his bullet-ridden car to get help.
"We are actively looking for [the suspect]," Trooper D.L. Wilson told ABC News Thursday. "We had troopers out overnight, but we didn't get any calls of suspicious people. We can't rule out that he's not in the area, but more than likely, he's left the area."
Because there is no specific search area, police are "kind of scaling back," he added.
Police are interviewing the victim, KCEN-TV's Patrick Crawford, and trying to get enough information for a forensic sketch of the suspect.
The man shot Crawford at least twice on Wednesday as he was getting into his car outside the Bruceville-Eddy, Texas, TV station, and left 11 bullet holes in his vehicle, Wilson said.
"Mr. Crawford is advising he has never seen this man before," the trooper said.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, doctors at Baylor Scott and White Hospital said Crawford suffered wounds to his abdomen, shoulder and the back of his head.
The suspect has been described as a white male, 30 to 35 years old, with a medium build and a receding hairline.
"We'll do our best, follow any leads, and hopefully we can track this gentleman down," Wilson said.
Crawford's wife Heather Brinkmann, who is also a meteorologist at the station, posted an update on her Facebook page Wednesday night to say her husband is in stable condition.
KCEN-TV reported that police were at the station Thursday, checking IDs of everyone driving in the parking lot.
Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton met with Sony Chairman Amy Pascal Thursday morning about the racial remarks in private emails that were leaked after the company was hacked, and while he said that they discussed possible routes for improved relations, he did not let her off the hook.
"The jury is still out with where we go with Amy," Sharpton said at a news conference after his meeting with Pascal.
Pascal is the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and her emails were a main target in the hack. She has already apologized for the contents of the emails, but said that the private messages "are not an accurate reflection of who I am."
That was not enough for Sharpton, however, who said that she called his advocacy organization, the National Action Network, as soon as the inappropriate remarks were released.
"I said to her at that time that the climate and environment of Hollywood only confirms the type of language that was used in those emails," Sharpton said Thursday.
"Being that Hollywood is an environment that still resembles 1950s America, it is a context that confirms the language," he said.
Sharpton did confirm that the National Action Network, as well as the NAACP, the National Urban League and the Black Women's Roundtable, will work with executives from Sony about ways to increase and improve racial diversity in the entertainment industry.
"Our interest is in changing Hollywood...seeing to it that Sony is on the right side of changing Hollywood," said Mark Morial, the president of the National Urban League, who appeared alongside Sharpton during Thursday's new conference.
Both men concluded their comments by condemning the hack itself, with Sharpton slamming the "dangerous precedent" that was set by what Sharpton described as a foreign government being able to "manipulate and bully the American corporate structure."
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Four new breeds of dogs have made it into the big league when it comes to dogs, the American Kennel Club.
The Spanish Water Dog, Cirneco dell’Etna, Bergamasco, and Boerboel have each gained full recognition, the AKC announced on Wednesday.
The four new breeds had to meet the requirements of having, “a minimum number of dogs geographically distributed throughout the U.S., as well as an established breed club of responsible owners and breeders,” in order to become AKC recognized, the organization reports.
The breeds will become recognized breeds and be allowed to compete in AKC-sanctioned dog shows on Jan. 1, 2015.
The Spanish Water Dog is described by the AKC as, “lively, hardworking, and very intelligent,” in addition to being “naturally protective.”
The Cirneco dell’Etna is described as, “a hunter that works by scent, sight, and hearing.”
The AKC calls the Bergamasco an, “athletic, sociable and intelligent dog that has a deep desire to please its owner.”
The Boerbol is described as not the dog for first-time dog owners, but one that still has, “strong protective instincts and loves its family.”
The four breeds' recognition means there will be 184 AKC-recognized dog breeds come Jan. 1.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- For Alan Gross, the American subcontractor released Wednesday morning after more than five years in a Cuban prison, "it’s good to be home.”
"What a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country," he said Wednesday afternoon.
Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail after Cuban authorities accused him of a “subversive” plot to "destroy" the government, praised President Obama’s plan to restore diplomatic relations with the island nation, calling the move “a game changer.”
“To me, Cubanos -- or at least most Cubanos -- are incredibly kind, generous, and talented; it pains me to see them treated so unjustly as one consequence of two governments’ mutually belligerent policies,” he said. “Five and a half decades of history show us that such belligerence inhibits better judgment.”
“It was particularly cool to be sitting next to the secretary of state as he was hearing about his job description for the next few months,” added Gross, who watched the president’s address with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Reportedly suffering from partial blindness and degenerative arthritis, Gross acknowledged the "extraordinary and determined" efforts of his wife, Judy, and his attorney, Scott Gilbert, who Gross called "my personal Moses."
"They have my endless gratitude, love, and respect," he said. “I want to thank all of the members of Congress from all sides of the aisle, such as Senator Jeff Flake and Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Barbara Lee, who supported, spoke up for, and visited me, subjected themselves to my ranting, and helped me to regain some of my weight. Even in Cuba, M&Ms melt in your mouth."
iStock/Thinkstock(REDONDO BEACH, Calif.) — At least three people are dead and several others injured after a car slammed into a group of pedestrians Wednesday in Redondo Beach, California, police said.
The crash occurred outside St. James Catholic Church where a Christmas service had just ended, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Some of the pedestrians were rushed to hospitals with critical injuries, Redondo Beach police Lt. Joe Hoffman said. Police initially said that one adult died at a hospital, and that the injured included at least one child. The Los Angeles County coroner later said that two more victims had died, bringing the death toll to three.
According to ABC station KABC-TV, police said that a woman was driving northbound on Pacific Coast Highway when she ran a red light, striking the pedestrians and hitting another car.
The woman was taken in police custody to a hospital, where she was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, authorities said.
Kuzma/iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- A Texas jury sentenced former Justice of the Peace Eric Williams to death in connection with the 2013 murder of the wife of a district attorney.
The jury had found Williams guilty in the murder of Cynthia McLelland, the wife of District Attorney Mike McLelland, earlier this month.
Among those who testified against Williams was his ex-wife, who described in detail the planning that went into Williams' revenge killings. District Attorney Mike McLelland and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse had prosecuted Williams for theft, effectively ending his legal career.
The McLellands were killed in March 2013. Williams was charged with killing Mike McLelland as well as Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, who was killed about two months earlier, but never tried for their deaths.
New Hampshire Attorney General's Office(CONCORD, N.H.) -- A New Hampshire man who allegedly kidnapped a teenage girl and held her for nine months now faces more than 200 charges, including assault and felonious sexual assault, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Nathaniel Kibby, 34, is charged with 80 counts each of aggravated felonious sexual assault and sexual assault, as well as 40 other crimes, said Jane Young, assistant attorney general of New Hampshire.
Kibby allegedly used an "anti-bark shock dog training collar" on the teen to prevent her from making noise, according to court documents. Other times, the court records accuse him of using a gag in her mouth, zip ties around her wrists and a motorcycle helmet on her head with her eyes taped shut.
The name of Kibby's alleged victim was initially released publicly when she went missing and when she returned to her family, but now that she is alleged to be the victim of sex crimes, her name is being withheld.
The girl was 14 years old when she vanished in October 2013. She mysteriously returned to her mother's home in New Hampshire on July 20, and Kibby was arrested eight days later.
Court records accuse Kibby of using a Taser to kidnap the girl, threatening to shoot her with a rifle and confining her to commit sexual assault.
Parts of the report released Wednesday have been redacted, but the charges make it clear that the suspect is accused of repeated, violent sexual assault.
Questions about the relationship between the girl and her alleged captor were initially raised because she did not immediately identify Kibby to police, though a spokesman for the girl's family later said the girl did not know her attacker prior to her abduction. The court records say that at one point, Kibby allegedly laid on top of the girl and put a gun in her hand, telling her that it was better to shoot him than to tell police about the kidnapping.
Kibby, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to appear in Coos Superior Court on Jan. 8 for arraignment.
Attempts to reach his attorney for comment weren't immediately successful.
iStock/Thinkstock(GRANT CREEK, Mont.) -- Markus Kaarma has been found guilty in the slaying of 17-year-old German exchange student Diren Dede, whom he shot after the teen wandered into Kaarma’s Grant Creek, Montana, garage.
Kaarma had claimed that he killed the teenager inside his garage out of fear for the safety of his family.
Montana law allows a homeowner to protect himself with deadly force if threatened.
Prosecutors say Kaarma bragged about wanting to "shoot some kids" and left his garage door open, baiting a would-be robber.
The jury agreed, convicting Kaarma on Wednesday of deliberate homicide.
KCEN/Facebook(WACO, Texas) -- Police continued their search tonight for a suspect in the shooting of a Texas meteorologist outside a TV station in Waco, Texas.
The suspect fled after allegedly shooting Patrick Crawford, NBC affiliate KCEN's morning meteorologist, multiple times in the studio's parking lot, Department of Public Safety Trooper D.L. Wilson told ABC News today.
Crawford underwent surgery, he added. Crawford's wife, Heather Brinkmann, also a meteorologist at the station, was with him at the hospital, KCEN's news director Jim Hice told ABC News.
"Thank you for your continuous thoughts and prayers," Heather Brinkmann posted on Facebook tonight. "I am happy to say that Patrick is in stable condition. Doctors continue to tell me how well he's doing considering the multiple gunshot wounds. Police tell me that if it wasn't for his smarts to hurry up and drive off and flag down construction workers, it could have been a whole different story. He is truly my hero."
A man was later captured after a standoff at a nearby house, but police told ABC affiliate KXXV that he was wanted in an unrelated case.
"[Crawford] was getting into his car this morning after leaving the building and the subject walked up to him and they had a confrontation," Wilson said.
With multiple gunshot wounds, Crawford, 35, was still able to drive away and flag down a construction worker for help, he added. It's not clear if there is a relationship between Crawford and the shooter.
"Whether they know each other or it's a random shooting, we don't know that yet," Wilson said.
The suspect is reportedly described as a white man with a receding hairline, 30 to 35 years old, wearing a black hoodie and dark jeans. He is considered armed and dangerous.
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Johns Hopkins University accidentally sent nearly 300 students emails suggesting they had been accepted to the school, when actually they had already been turned down, the school admitted.
The university quickly sent another note to those students on Sunday, apologizing, telling them that the "welcome" email was an error and saying their original rejection still stood.
"That was far worse than the original denial," Chuck Stephenson, whose 17-year-old son Sam was among the 294 students who received the error message, told ABC News on Wednesday. "We all realize how difficult Johns Hopkins and some of the other premier schools are to get into, so the initial one wasn't a shocker. Everyone had gotten over that. But the second one was tough to swallow."
Sam Stephenson is a senior at Eastern View High School in Culpeper, Virginia. When he got the first email on Sunday that welcomed students to the class of 2019 and urged them to stock up on John Hopkins gear, "he assumed the original letter of denial was incorrect," his dad said. He still plans to apply for regular admission to Dartmouth, Duke, Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia, he said.
One student posted the messages from the school on Twitter:
Johns Hopkins' early decision acceptances were announced on Dec. 12. On Dec. 14, the mistaken message welcoming students who were not actually accepted was sent "due to a human error at a vendor working for our undergraduate admissions office," said Dennis O'Shea of the school's media relations department.
"When the problem was discovered, we quickly sent out a correction to those who had received the message by mistake," O'Shea said. "We sincerely apologize to the students affected and to their families. This was an unacceptable error and we are working to ensure it does not happen again."
Of the 1,865 students who applied for early decision to the prestigious Baltimore school, 539 were accepted.