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Texas sheriff threatens to charge driver over graphic anti-Trump sticker

A Texas sheriff is getting angry feedback from free speech advocates after he wrote a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, threatening charges against a driver for a profane anti-Trump sticker on the window of her truck.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy E. Nehls posted a photo on his Facebook page Wednesday that showed a white GMC Sierra with a window decal that reads, “(EXPLETIVE) TRUMP AND (EXPLETIVE) YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” The photo shared by Nehls was censored to block a portion of the offending word.

Similar images found online indicate that Nehls also blocked out a middle finger aimed at those reading the sticker. 

In Nehls’ now-deleted post, which was saved and shared by the ACLU, the sheriff asked anyone who knows the owner of the truck to contact his office. 

“I have received numerous calls regarding the offensive display on this truck, as it is often seen along FM 359,” Nehls wrote. “Our prosecutor has informed us she would accept disorderly conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it.”

The ACLU, in turn, asked the driver of the truck to contact the ACLU of Texas. 

“No, Sheriff Troy E. Nehls, you can’t prosecute speech just because it contains words you don’t like,” the ACLU’s post read

The Texas branch of the organization also spoke out, posting on Facebook details of the constitutional protections for profane and indecent speech.

“Constitutional Law 101: You can’t ban speech just because it has (expletive) in it,” the post read. “Hey truck owner, feel free to contact the ACLU of Texas.”

The driver of the truck, Karen Fonseca, did reach out to the Houston Chronicle. Fonseca, 46, said the truck is her husband’s, but she often drives it.

She also said she used to work for Nehls in the county jail.

Fonseca told the Chronicle that the sticker attracted plenty of attention even before the sheriff learned of it. People often honk their horns and take pictures.

“It’s not to cause hate or animosity,” Fonseca told the newspaper. “It’s just our freedom of speech, and we’re exercising it.”

>> Read more trending news

She said police officers have pulled her over because of the sticker, but that they failed to come up with a reason to ticket her. She said she has no plan to contact her former boss about modifying the sticker. 

Fort Bend District Attorney John Healey told the Chronicle that the sticker does not constitute a criminal offense, no matter what one of his own prosecutors may have told Nehls. 

“I did not believe it was a prosecutable case based on the definition of disorderly conduct,” Healey said. 

Both Healey and Nehls are Republicans, the Chronicle reported. Though Healey is not running for re-election, Nehls is considering a bid for Congress. 

The sheriff said his concern was that the language on the sticker could cause a dangerous confrontation.

“Many families have called that have seen that truck on our county roadways and are very offended by the language on the truck,” Nehls said. “I think they’re walking a fine line.”

Judge ‘shamed’ jurors over guilty sex assault verdict, ethics panel finds

A Texas judge has been reprimanded by state judicial ethics officials after they found that she “shamed” jurors over their guilty verdict in a 2016 sexual assault case.

The jury foreperson told members of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct in August that state District Judge Teresa Hawthorne said the panel’s “punishment was too harsh” and that she “did not believe the victim was raped at all.”

In a public reprimand issued last week, the commission concluded that Hawthorne’s conduct “constituted willful and/or persistent violations” of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and that those violations are “clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of her duties.”

The Dallas Morning News reported that Hawthorne, who is seeking a third term, will remain on the bench despite the reprimand. The judge declined to comment on the commission’s decision.  

Read the entire public reprimand here. 

The reprimand, which was issued Nov. 9, states that Hawthorne presided over the October 2016 trial of a defendant named Joe L. Garrison, who jurors found guilty of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 99 years in prison. Garrison, 53, is imprisoned in the William “Bill” Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas Department of Corrections records show

Hawthorne met with the jury after they rendered their decision in Garrison’s case. Three jurors, including the foreperson, told the commission that the judge admonished them on the verdict and accused them of not deliberating thoroughly enough.

“Quite frankly, I am disturbed,” Hawthorne said, according to one juror. “I am disturbed by the way you came back with such a harsh verdict and sentence for this man’s life in such a short time. Did you even discuss the details of the case at all?”

The juror said that Hawthorne went on to say that if she had been on the panel, there “would have been a hung jury.” She also said she wanted to hear from the defendant’s mother during the trial.

The testimony of the two other jurors mirrored the first woman’s statements to the commission, according to the reprimand. One of the three told commissioners that Hawthorne asked “how (they) could have a good conscience about (their) decision.”

The judge also told the panel that if any of them were selected as a juror in the future, they would “need to spend more time going over the facts, and that (they) should be sure that (they) give the defendant a fair decision on his or her being guilty, because she thought (they) convicted an innocent man.”

Hawthorne admitted to the commission that she told jurors she would have found Garrison not guilty, but she denied the other comments they attributed to her. 

“The judge denied that she shamed or reprimanded the jury for their verdict,” the commission document states. “She stated that she regrets ‘that all of this happened’ and that she ‘never intended to upset anyone,’ but she could not lie to the jury when they asked her what she thought of the case.”

The commission also reprimanded Hawthorne for intervening with a Lubbock County judge in a 2014 criminal case involving her nephew. In that instance, she emailed the judge in his case and requested that the warrant for her nephew’s arrest be withdrawn, the document says. 

>> Read more trending news

She also voluntarily testified on the nephew’s behalf in an August 2016 probation revocation hearing. 

“During her testimony, Judge Hawthorne referenced her judicial position on three separate occasions, and offered her opinion as to her nephew’s character,” the commission reprimand states

Hawthorne admitted that she testified without being subpoenaed in her nephew’s case, which violated a portion of the state Code of Judicial Conduct that states a judge shall not voluntarily testify as a character witness in a case. 

The commission found that she also violated judicial canon when she “used the prestige of her judicial office” to help resolve her nephew’s legal trouble and engaged in an “ex parte” conversation with the judge in the case. 

The Morning News reported that public reprimands for judges are rare, particularly when the judge receives two reprimands at the same time. 

A Democrat, Hawthorne took office in January 2011. She made waves that December when she ruled in a double murder case that the state’s death penalty statute was unconstitutional.

The Morning News reported at the time that Hawthorne argued the law allowed prosecutors to arbitrarily seek the death penalty. 

Her decision was later overturned and the murder case was reassigned to a new judge, the newspaper said

Man charged with driving lawn tractor while drunk

A man in Aurora, Illinois, was arrested and charged with driving a John Deere lawn tractor in the street while drunk, WGN reports.

Ruben Garza, 50, faces several charges, including two counts of driving under the influence, after driving the lawn tractor in the street near Fifth and Ashland around 3:40 p.m Friday, police said.

Police said a witness said the man appeared drunk, seemed to be falling asleep and stopped to urinate in a yard in the 400 block of Ashland. Once he got back on his tractor, he almost hit a parked vehicle and began yelling at people as he drove the tractor, police said.

>> Read more trending news 

Police said an officer caught up to Garza in the 1100 block of Lebanon and ordered him to turn off the tractor. While he was being questioned, the officer said he smelled alcohol on Garza's breath and said he was slurring his speech.

The officer said Garza became belligerent and did not believe could be charged with a DUI because he was riding a lawn tractor. Garza then began to swear at the officer and threatened him, police said.

Garza was then taken into custody and the tractor was impounded. Garza also was charged with having no registration and operating an uninsured motor vehicle. He is due in court Dec. 5.

>> See the Facebook post here

Roy Moore campaign claims yearbook signature is fake

The attorney and campaign chair for Roy Moore gave a 10-minute press conference Wednesday in which they challenged the authenticity of Moore’s signature in the yearbook that backs up Beverly Young Nelson’s allegations against Moore.

>> Roy Moore's accuser, wife pictured in yearbook under same high school class, report says

Speaking from Alabama Republican Party headquarters in Hoover, Alabama, attorney Phillip L. Jauregui cited a handwriting expert retained by the campaign as he insisted that the signature inside Nelson’s yearbook was false.

“Look at the sevens,” he said, referring to two sets of the numbers in the note written to Nelson, which said, “To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977. Love, Roy Moore, D.A. 12-22-77 Olde Hickory House.”

Jauregui and campaign chair Bill Armistead argued that Moore’s signature had actually been forged from court documents. They said Moore’s onetime assistant signed court documents with Moore’s name and her own initials — “D.A.” — to indicate that she’d done it.

>> Ivanka Trump slams Roy Moore in interview

At the time that Moore is alleged to have sexually assaulted Nelson, Moore was an assistant district attorney of Etowah County, although Nelson says he identified himself as “the district attorney” to her the night of the alleged incident, the Daily Beast reported.

“I am the district attorney of Etowah County,” Nelson said he told her. “If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you.”

>> Alabama woman says Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16

Moore also presided over Nelson’s 1999 divorce proceedings, said Jauregui. They say that contradicts her claim that she had neither seen nor had any contact with Moore after the alleged assault.

Moore’s lawyer added that he had never seen Moore “act remotely inappropriate” toward any women.

A number of prominent Republicans have parted ways with Moore since the allegations began to surface, including Vice President Mike Pence. Neither Jauregui nor Armistead took questions from reporters before retreating back inside Alabama GOP headquarters.

>> Read more trending news

Moore, who was rumored to have been banned from a mall, according to a New Yorker piece, on Wednesday tweeted that he represented “everything the Washington Elite hate,” claiming the “Washington Elite” will “do whatever it takes to stop us.”

Shooting victim facing criminal charges because of what police say they found in his jacket

The man who was in a car with a Memphis, Tennessee, father who died after being shot and crashing his car is now facing criminal charges.

Loronzo Davis and a second man, Romedarrius Humphrey, were riding in a car that crashed on E. Crump near Lauderdale early Tuesday morning.

>> On Memphis father dies after being shot, crashing while driving to store

When officers arrived, they found Davis suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Davis’ family told WHBQ that he had just left home to go to the store and never returned. He had a 4-year-old daughter.

Humphrey was lying in the middle of Crump with a black jacket in his hands, according to a police affidavit. He had also been shot and was unresponsive.

Humphrey was taken to an ambulance and his jacket stayed in the street. When police couldn’t find an ID in his jeans pockets, they said they looked in the jacket.

>> Read more trending news 

In one of the pockets, officers said they found a grocery bag containing several clear plastic bags of marijuana – some of which were broken down into even smaller bags, according to the arrest affidavit. Officers said they also found a scale inside the grocery bag.

The drugs had a total weight of 155.2 grams, police said.

Humphrey was taken to Regional One in critical condition. He was treated for his injuries and then booked into the Shelby County jail. He has since been released on his own recognizance.

Humphrey is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell.

Ohio is only state where police are not required to report child abuse

Anyone who works with children -- including doctors, teachers, camp counselors and therapists -- is required by Ohio law to report suspected child abuse or neglect to either a children services agency or police.

But Ohio is the only state where police officers are not subject to the same mandated reporting laws.

>> Read more trending news

A Columbus, Ohio, lawmaker wants to fix that, and has proposed a bill that would require law enforcement officers to be designated as mandated reporters as well.

“I was shocked and saddened to learn that Ohio was the only remaining state not to have law enforcement listed as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect,” State Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent, D-Columbus, said.

She began looking at the issue after learning of a Columbus family with five children that police had visited dozens of times for domestic violence incidents. Despite the children being exposed to repeated violence, police officers never referred the case to children services to check on their well-being, Kent said.

As a former teacher, she felt police officers should have to report these situations like she would have been required to do as a mandated reporter.

The proposed law would require law enforcement officers to contact the local children services agency if they know, or have reasonable cause to suspect, that a child has incurred abuse or neglect or faces a threat of it.

“It’s really a chance to have an early warning,” Kent said of more professionals being on the lookout for possible child abuse.

The Ohio House unanimously passed HB 137 earlier this month, and the bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

RELATED: Newspaper’s stories of child deaths prompt calls for reform

In a package of articles last month, the Dayton Daily News revealed cracks in Ohio’s system for protecting children. The newspaper’s investigation showed how some children had suffered painful deaths just days or weeks after being reunited with their birth parents. Other tragic outcomes were tied to a lack of oversight by child protection agencies that are overwhelmed with cases because of the opioid epidemic.

INVESTIGATION: Who is protecting our children? Adults with a history of abuse have killed hundreds of Ohio kids

Many police departments already have policies that require police officers to refer suspected abuse cases to children services, and others do it out of practice without written policies. Police officers in the Dayton region coordinate their criminal investigations with children services cases through Care House at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

“We already do this,” Dayton police spokeswoman Cara Zinski-Neace said. The department’s policy includes calling Montgomery County Children Services when a child-endangering or other crime report is filed and consulting with that agency before removing a child from their home.

READ THEIR STORIES: 19 children who died after being returned to their birth parents

Area children services officials say they often work with police officers, who are out in the field and able to catch warning signs early.

“We have a pretty good relationship with law enforcement in our community, although they are not mandated reporters,” said Jennie Cole, intake manager for Montgomery County Children Services. “We do work hand in hand, and they are oftentimes our eyes and ears out there. We fully support this legislation because it just makes sense, given their many contacts in the community.”

The proposed law closes the loop of communication, said Clark County Deputy Director for Children Services Pamela Meermans.

“If you are currently a mandated reporter, you have a choice, ” she said, adding that anyone who suspects child abuse should contact children services directly or police. “Law enforcement then, in turn, needs to inform children services. That is not universally done in all jurisdictions.”

Parents charged in underage drinking party, police say

Police said officers recently responded to was a wild party and that dozens of teenagers took off running upon their arrival.

Smith township police in Pennsylvania got a tip Saturday night about the large, underage party at a home where 25 cars were parked outside. Police said there was a strong odor of marijuana inside.

>> Read more trending news

The homeowner told police he had nothing to say. His wife said it was their daughter's birthday party.

In the criminal complaint, police said 43 people were found in the basement. Thirty-two of them were under 18 years old and 25 of them were cited for underage drinking.

A girl was reported missing hours later by her mother. The girl was later found knocking on doors, trying to get into an apartment building.

She was 2 1/2 miles from where the party took place and was not aware of her surroundings or how she ended up there.

Police also found a small marijuana growing system set up in the basement.

Both homeowners are facing numerous charges.

Texas State fraternity death likely to result in criminal charges

The death of a Texas State fraternity pledge after an off-campus social event will likely result in criminal charges based on a preliminary review of evidence, San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp told the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news

“I think it is pretty likely we are going to have some kind of criminal case,” Stapp said. “Once we know the complete picture, we will have to have discussions with the district attorney on the most appropriate course of actions. It’s not going to be overnight by any means.”

The death comes about a week after the national chapter of Phi Kappa Psi ordered the Texas State chapter to cease its social activities because of an on-going investigation, university officials confirmed Tuesday. Texas State had launched an investigation Oct. 4 based on a complaint it had received in late September. The university would not disclose the nature of those allegations.

>> Related: Texas State suspends all fraternity, sorority activities after death of Phi Kappa Psi pledge

Stapp said it likely will take a month to six weeks before a decision is made because officials will want to wait for a full autopsy, which he said will be a critical piece of evidence in the case and would show the blood alcohol level for 20-year-old Matthew McKinley Ellis, who was pledging Texas State’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

San Marcos police say Ellis was dead when friends found him around 11 a.m. Monday. The university said he had attended a fraternity event off campus. The university on Tuesday suspended all Greek activity.

“Any death in our community we take seriously and especially the death of a young person like this who had so much ahead of him,” Stapp said. “In any case like this, if there are appropriate charges that can be proven, the intent is to file them,” Stapp said.

Under Texas law, hazing is a Class A misdemeanor unless it results in a death, in which case the charge can be elevated to a felony.

Texas State suspends all fraternity, sorority activities after death of Phi Kappa Psi pledge

Police on Tuesday were investigating the death of a Texas State University sophomore and fraternity pledge, authorities at the university said.

>> Read more trending news

Texas State President Denise Trauth confirmed in a statement Tuesday that Matthew McKinley Ellis, a Phi Kappa Psi pledge, died after attending an off-campus fraternity event, and she announced an immediate suspension of activities of Greek fraternity and sorority chapters at Texas State.

“These chapters are prohibited from holding new-member events, chapter meetings, social functions, and philanthropic activities until a thorough review of the Greek affairs system is completed,” Trauth said.

University spokesman Matt Flores said Ellis, 20, was a business administration sophomore from Humble.

Police said he was pronounced dead at 12:28 p.m. Monday after medics responded to the off-campus Millennium apartments. Friends discovered him a little after 11 a.m. and first responders got the 911 call at 11:35 a.m., officials said. 

Police believe Ellis was a pledge for Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, based on interviews with those at the scene, San Marcos police said.

According to a preliminary police investigation, alcohol may have been a factor in Ellis’s death, but his autopsy is still pending, police said. The University Star, Texas State’s student newspaper, said Ellis died after his fraternity’s initiation. 

Joanne Smith, vice president for student affairs, is in charge of conducting the review and proposing recommendations for reinstating fraternity and sorority chapters “that demonstrate a commitment to the core values of Texas State and the ideals established by their respective national organizations,” Trauth said. “It is imperative that our entire university community develop a culture that places the highest priority on the safety of its students, faculty, and staff.”

Ellis is the second Texas State student to die since the winter of 2016 after attending an off-campus Greek event. Four Texas state fraternities were handed suspensions in January, ranging from two to five years, for alcohol violations stemming from a party last year in which a 20-year-old student was fatally struck and dragged by a bus near Martindale.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Who was Kevin Janson Neal, suspected gunman in California shooting?

Law enforcement sources have identified the man believed to have killed five people and injured 10 others Tuesday in Rancho Tehama, California, The Associated Press reports.

>> 5 dead, including suspected gunman, in shooting at California home, elementary school

Here's what we know about 43-year-old Kevin Janson Neal:

>> Read more trending news 

>> Click here or scroll down for more

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