Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Joplin man sentenced to 15 years on child pornography charge

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

A Joplin man was sentenced in federal court today for possessing and distributing child pornography over the Internet.

Ernest W. Haney, 51, of Joplin, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark to 15 years in federal prison without parole.

On Oct. 20, 2016, Haney pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography. Haney used peer-to-peer file-sharing software on his computer to download and to share images and videos of child pornography over the Internet.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crime Task Force.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Joplin city manager provides weekly update

(The following report was provided by City Manager Sam Anselm to the Joplin City Council Friday afternoon.)

Good afternoon, everyone. Please see below for this week’s report.

-The most recent update from public works is available by following this link.

-Earlier this week the police department submitted an application for a grant from the Department of Justice for body cameras. It is a 50/50 grant, and if successful, we will use drug forfeiture money to cover the city’s cost for the equipment.

-In other news from the PD, the first of the two affixed speed displays was installed on Main Street on Thursday. The second should be installed by the end of next week. In addition to posting vehicle speeds, the equipment also collects speed data for analysis.

-On Monday of this week, parks staff opened bids for artificial turf at Wendell Redden and Joe Becker stadiums. As previously indicated, the bids were solicited to determine how much it would cost to partially or fully turf these fields, which would dramatically lower the cost of field maintenance and extend the use of the playing surfaces beyond our typical February-September season. Staff is in the process of analyzing the bids, and I hope to bring this discussion to you at our March work session.

-In addition to the turf discussion, March’s work session will also include an update from the Vision Joplin 2022 group. If there are other topics you would like to discuss during the work session, please let me know.

-In response to council’s request to seek input from the home builders and contractors associations about changes to our building permit process, we have heard back from both groups. I have asked the building division staff to prepare some additional information about our process and the current enforcement abilities of our chief building official. We are targeting our first meeting in March to present you with that information and get your guidance on whether to proceed with changes to the building permit process.

State auditor calls on Greitens to approve family-friendly leave policy for state workers

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today issued a letter to Gov. Eric Greitens calling on his administration to approve two important changes to family leave policies for state executive branch employees. Auditor Galloway issued the letter after learning the administration informed the state's Personnel Advisory Board meeting on Feb. 14 that it was not moving ahead with the changes. The proposals were unanimously approved by the Board in December of 2016.

These family-friendly policies were designed to provide additional flexibility to parents by allowing employees to use earned sick leave for parental bonding after the birth or adoption of a child. The policies also expand parental leave allowances for parents in cases where both parents are state employees. Auditor Galloway urged the Governor to reconsider the halting of these policies, which would benefit employee health and welfare, at no additional cost to the state.

"This is paid time off employees have earned through their time in the state workforce, but can't use during the critical bonding period that exists in the weeks and months after a child is born or adopted," Auditor Galloway said. "Families benefit when parents are involved in the care of a child and without these policy changes, many state employees will remain prohibited from using their own paid leave to take time off to bond with and care for a new addition to their families."

The delay adds additional pressure to the timeline in order to complete the process prior to established deadlines.

The proposed changes would allow state employees to use accrued sick leave to take time off for parental bonding after the birth or adoption of a child. Current policies allow employees to use accrued vacation time for parental bonding. Sick leave is limited to pregnancy, childbirth and recovery from childbirth, but not for parental bonding. If the employee has no vacation leave, or once that leave is exhausted, the employee may take unpaid time off for parental bonding up to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The maximum amount of protected time off would remain 12 weeks, but employees could use both vacation and sick leave for parental bonding, which could be spread out over 12 months.

The policy changes would also expand parental leave in instances where both parents are state employees. The state currently allows 12 weeks of protected leave, which must be split between both parents. The new policy would allow 12 weeks to each parent.

Unlike the executive branch workforce, which is under the control of the governor's office, other statewide office holders have the authority to approve their own internal personnel policies. Auditor Galloway has taken steps to ensure these beneficial family leave policies apply to employees of the State Auditor's office. She also highlighted a recent change to allow her staff to use sick leave or shared leave in situations involving domestic violence.

Auditor Galloway is calling on other statewide office holders to examine their own policies to ensure they offer adequate leave benefits. These leave benefits are key to attracting workers in a state where state employees are among the lowest paid in the nation. The policies would have no impact on private businesses.

Columbia man arrested for attempting to help ISIS, undercover investigation detailed

(From the U. S. Department of Justice)

Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr., 25, of Columbia, Missouri, was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Hester was charged in federal court based on his role in making preparations to launch a terrorist attack with persons he believed were associated with ISIS, who were actually undercover law enforcement personnel.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson for the Western District of Missouri and Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson of the FBI’s Kansas City Field Office.

“As alleged in the complaint, Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr. attempted to provide material support to ISIS by participating in what he believed would be a deadly attack committed in the name of the foreign terrorist organization,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Countering terrorist threats remains the highest priority of the National Security Division, and we will continue our efforts to identify and hold accountable those who seek to commit acts of terrorism within our borders.”

“First on social media, then during face-to-face meetings with an undercover FBI employee, this defendant repeatedly expressed his intent to engage in acts of violent jihad against the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Dickson. “He believed he was part of an ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack that would result in the deaths and injuries of many innocent victims. He readily participated in the preparations for an attack, provided materials and resources for an attack and voiced his intent to carry out an attack. I commend the FBI for protecting the public from a security threat.”

“Terrorism knows no demographic boundaries and remains the FBI’s top priority,” said Special Agent in Charge Jackson. “The arrest of Hester is the culmination of an extensive FBI investigation and demonstrates the challenges law enforcement faces in identifying individuals intent on causing harm.”

Hester, who remains in federal custody, was arrested on February 17, when he arrived at an arranged meeting with an undercover law enforcement employee. The criminal complaint was signed on Sunday and made public today, when Hester made his initial court appearance.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, throughout the investigation, Hester expressed his interest in and exhibited his willingness to commit violence in support of ISIS – and he attempted to provide material support to ISIS by assisting in what he believed would be a murderous terrorist bombing and gunfire attack committed in the name of the foreign terrorist organization.

Hester is a U.S. citizen who was born in Missouri. He was enlisted in the U.S. Army for less than a year, receiving a general discharge from service in mid-2013.

FBI agents undertook a review of Hester’s publicly available posts on multiple social media accounts in September 2016. On Oct. 3, 2016, Hester was arrested by the Columbia Police Department in an unrelated case and remained in state custody until he was released on bond on Oct. 13, 2016. His bond conditions included electronic monitoring. While Hester was being monitored, FBI undercover employees maintained regular contact with him via an encrypted messaging app and text messages, and met with him on several occasions.

On January 24, Hester pleaded guilty in state court to property damage and unlawful use of a weapon and was released on his own recognizance. Hester was no longer on electronic monitoring after that date. FBI undercover personnel continued to meet in person with Hester and communicate with him electronically.

Hester agreed to meet again with an FBI undercover employee on February 17. When Hester arrived for that meeting, he was arrested. Hester was the sole subject of this undercover investigation.

Undercover Investigation

According to the affidavit, the investigation began when the FBI became aware (through multiple confidential sources) of Hester’s social media posts, in which he expressed animus towards the U.S. and suggested an adherence to radical Islamic ideology and a propensity for violence. Hester used several online aliases, including “Mohammed Junaid Al Amreeki,” “Junaid Muhammad,” “Rabbani Junaid Muhammad,” “Rami Talib” and “Ali Talib Muhammad.”

On Oct. 3, 2016, Hester was arrested by Columbia police officers after an incident in the parking lot of a grocery store. Hester, who appeared to be in an argument with his wife, threw a folded pocket knife through a plate-glass window near the entrance of the store. When store employees confronted Hester, he assumed an aggressive stance and forcefully placed his hand into the diaper bag he was carrying in a manner that appeared to be reaching for a weapon. Police officers later recovered a 9mm handgun from the diaper bag. Hester was in custody until Oct. 13, 2016, when he was released on bond and placed on electronic monitoring.

On Oct. 15, 2016, two days after Hester’s release on bond, an FBI employee using an undercover identity contacted Hester by private message. The FBI employee had accepted a friend request from Hester the day before Hester was arrested for the grocery store incident. They continued to communicate via social media, text and an encrypted messaging app, the affidavit says, during which Hester presented himself as a security threat, stating, for example, that the U.S. government should be “overthrown,” and suggesting “hitting” the government “hard,” while noting that it would not be “a one man job.” Hester identified categories of potential targets for attack and said he wanted a “global jihad.” Hester stated that he was trying to find like-minded people to help. When the undercover employee mentioned “brothers,” Hester said he wanted to meet them.

Hester then established that he would act on the statements he made online. In early November 2016, the affidavit says, Hester made arrangements with the undercover employee – whom he never met in person – to meet with “one of the brothers.” The undercover employee arranged this meeting with another undercover FBI employee.

During a January 31 meeting, the undercover employee provided Hester with a list of items to purchase, including 9-volt batteries, duct tape, copper wire and roofing nails. The undercover employee implied that these items would be used to make bombs, the affidavit says, stating that those materials are needed “to make … things … to bring some kind of destruction.” Hester allegedly responded by stating: “I’m just ready to help. I’m ready to help any way I can.” When the undercover employee stated that what they were planning was “going to bring them to their knees … and then they gonna know to fear Allah,” Hester expressed his anticipation by stating: “I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”

Hester and the undercover employee agreed to meet again at Hester’s residence the next day. When the undercover employee arrived, the affidavit says, Hester gave him the items he had purchased. The undercover employee told Hester they were planning something “10 times more” than the Boston Marathon bombing, and Hester expressed his approval. The undercover employee told Hester that they were planning on “killing a lot of people.” The undercover employee told Hester that he could “walk away,” the affidavit says, but Hester said, “I’m down.” The undercover employee told Hester they were going to “wage all kinda war,” and Hester again expressed his approval.

The undercover employee then pulled back blankets in the back of the SUV to show Hester three AK-47 style rifles and two .45-caliber handguns. The undercover employee told Hester that, while they had plenty of firearms, they needed more ammunition. Hester stated that he could not purchase ammunition because of his state charges, but that he had a friend that could get ammunition for him. Hester stated that he would have money to purchase ammunition after he received his tax refund and after he was paid in a couple of weeks.

The undercover employee also opened a backpack, which contained pieces of pipe with end caps attached in the manner of pipe bombs, along with cord-like safety fuse, stating, “these are bombs right here.” The undercover employee explained that the duct tape Hester provided would be used to tape the bombs together, which Hester acknowledged, and that the nails Hester provided would “cut peoples’ heads off.” Hester responded: “Oh yeah. I know,” indicating that he understood the nails were to be used as shrapnel for bombs.

The undercover employee stated that they had more backpacks that they were going to put in different locations. Hester acknowledged that he understood, and stated that they had to be smarter than the Boston Marathon bombers. Hester again confirmed that he was “down,” the affidavit says, and that he understood they had to “lay low” and act in a manner to avoid detection.

The undercover employee stated that they were going to “strike fear in all these infidel hearts,” and Hester responded that he agreed and that he was ready.

According to the affidavit, Hester contacted the first undercover employee via text message on February 2, and indicated he would “have some more stuff … in a couple of weeks when I get paid.” Hester asked the undercover employee, “When you talk to the brother again let him know I’ll have some more gifts in a couple of weeks.”

On February 4, 6, 7, 11 and 16 Hester communicated with an undercover employee via an encrypted messaging app. Hester said that he was excited, that he was “happy to be part” of it, and that it was “time they answer for their atrocities.” Hester predicted that it was “going to be a good day for Muslims worldwide.” Hester asked how the “party plan” was coming along and reiterated that he would get more “supplies.” The undercover employee told Hester that the “party” would take place on Presidents’ Day and that the targets of the operation would include busses, trains and a train station in Kansas City. Hester said, according to the affidavit, that it felt “good to help strike back at the true terrorist.”

On February 17, Hester met again with the second undercover employee and brought two additional boxes of roofing nails. Hester accompanied the undercover employee to a nearby storage facility, where the two examined the security cameras. Hester was arrested shortly thereafter.

The charge contained in this complaint and the assertions in the supporting affidavit are simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian P. Casey and David Raskin, with the assistance of Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Hester Complaint

Vice President Pence to visit Missouri Wednesday

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

On Wednesday, February 22, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to St. Louis, Missouri to participate in listening discussions with American workers and employees of the Fabick Cat equipment and engine dealer, a 100 year-old family owned and family operated business. 

During his visit, the Vice President will discuss America's economic comeback. 

After the listening discussions and a tour of the facility, the Vice President will provide formal remarks.

Greitens: We need volunteers to clean up vandalized Jewish cemetery in St. Louis

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

As you may know, yesterday Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis was vandalized.

One measure of a community's strength is what we do in moments like this. We can choose to cower, or we can choose productive action and shared service. We can turn a vile act into a moment for resolve and a demonstration of our state's faith.

At 3:00 PM on Wednesday, February 22nd, we will be bringing together a group of volunteers to help clean up the cemetery. There are simple things that need to be done—but at times like this, it's simple things that send a powerful signal about who we are as a state and as a community.

There is a concept in Jewish teaching and thought known as tikkun olam. It translates literally into “repairing the world,” but what it means more broadly is that we all have an obligation to one another and to be of service. It is in moments like this that the world is in most need of repair, and we must do our part.

My team and I will be there tomorrow, and I'd invite you to join us. If you'd like to help, please be there ready to work at 3:00 PM. If you have supplies to spare, please bring what you can of the following: rakes, large garbage cans and garbage bags, work gloves, five-gallon buckets, non-chlorine bleach, and wash rags.

The cemetery is located at 7550 Olive Blvd, University City, MO, 63130. We will be working until the close of the cemetery at 4:00 PM.

There are many of you that cannot join us but who still want to help. The Jewish Federation of St. Louis has put out a call for donations for the restoration and security of the cemetery. Please consider a contribution: https://www.jfedstl.org/emergency-response/.

I welcome you to join us as we rebuild in this moment, and I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow.

We look forward to seeing you!

Response: Brutality lawsuit against Joplin police officers is frivolous

In responses filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western Missouri, attorney Karl Blanchard said brutality charges alleged in a civil suit against Joplin police officers John Isenmann and Ethan Rodgers were "frivolous" and were designed to "harass" his clients.

The response also denied the brutality allegation.

In his lawsuit, filed February 15, Joey Caulk said Isenmann and Rodgers used excessive force on him following his August 9, 2015 arrest on charges of domestic assault and two counts of resisting arrest.

Officers Isenmann and Rodgers intentionally, unnecessarily, and unreasonably pushed Plaintiff Caulk to the ground and smashed his head into the ground. Because Plaintiff Caulk was in handcuffs, he could not brace his fall or keep his head from being smashed into the ground. Plaintiff Caulk screamed in pain and blood gushed from his head.

Caulk is asking for $300,000 and is requesting a jury trial. He is represented by Springfield attorney Erica Mynarich

Joplin Police records indicate Caulk has been arrested three times since August 9, 2015- charged with domestic assault January 15, 2016, domestic assault August 20, 2016, and assault October 29, 2016.


Watch Senate Education Committee hearing on Ed Emery's bathroom bill live at noon

Watch MO Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing live

McCaskill visits U. S.-Mexico border