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'Armed and dangerous' escaped inmate is person of interest in homicide of prison official

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Tennessee Department of Corrections(HENNING, Tenn.) — Police in Tennessee have issued a Blue Alert for an escaped inmate who is a person of interest in the homicide of a prison official.

Curtis Ray Watson escaped from work detail at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee, about 50 miles northeast of Memphis, and should be considered armed and extremely dangerous, the Tennessee Department of Corrections said in a statement Wednesday.

Watson fled the area on a tractor, which was later found about a mile from the facility, officials said.

Watson, 44, is a person of interest in the homicide of Debra Johnson, 64, who was the West Tennessee administrator for the Department of Corrections, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

Johnson, who was killed early Wednesday inside her home, which is located on the prison grounds, was employed with the state for the last 38 years.

Her body was found at 11:30 a.m. and evidence at the scene indicated there was foul play, police said. A team of forensic scientists are investigating the scene of the death for evidence.

“Rest assured that we will find this offender and bring justice to the family of Debra Johnson,” said Tony C. Parker, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

After Johnson’s body was found, the facility was placed on lock down. Watson was found to be missing after a count of inmates was conducted, police said. Authorities do not know if Johnson had any prior contact with Watson.

The TBI is working with agencies across the state to locate Watson and is asking the public to be on the lookout.

“If you spot Curtis Watson, do not approach him. Call 911. He is to be considered dangerous,” said TBI Director David Rausch.

In addition to the Blue Alert, Watson has been added to the state’s most wanted list.

Over the course of her “distinguished” career, Johnson served in numerous positions including correctional sergeant, deputy warden, warden and correctional administrator, overseeing all prisons in the western region of the state, officials said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico swears in new governor Wanda Vazquez, marking 3rd leadership change in a week

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@ricardorossello/Twitter(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Puerto Rico has a new governor — again.

Wanda Vazquez, the island’s justice secretary, became governor Wednesday after she was sworn in by the Supreme Court.

Vazquez released a statement saying it’s with “great humility and commitment that I assume the position to direct the destinies of our country, with responsibility and delivery. I will continue to focus on regaining the direction of our people in an orderly and peaceful way.”

Hours earlier, the court ruled that the swearing in process by which Pedro Pierluisi became governor was unconstitutional.

Vazquez, who will become Puerto Rico’s third governor in a week, had previously said that she did not have any interest in becoming to the U.S. territory’s chief executive.

But on Wednesday, she released a statement recognizing the decision from the Supreme Court and saying she would accept the role of governor.

“Puerto Rico needs certainty and stability. Our actions will be aimed at that end and will always be first,” Vazquez wrote.

Puerto Rico was thrown into disarray after leaked text messages allegedly showed former Gov. Ricardo Rossello and his staff making homophobic, misogynistic and sexist comments against opponents and critics, as well as mocking victims of 2017’s Hurricane Maria. Widespread protests followed, prompting the governor to initially say he’d step down after his term in 2020, before resigning almost immediately.

On Wednesday, the island’s highest court ruled in a unanimous decision that the part of the law of succession allowing the secretary of state to become governor — without the confirmation of both legislative chambers — was unconstitutional.

The interpretation of the succession law was the grounds by which Pierluisi became governor on Aug. 2 after being appointed by Rossello.

Rossello appointed Pierluisi as secretary of state just minutes before leaving the governor’s office. Due to a loop hole in the succession laws, Pierluisi was able to be sworn into that role and quickly as governor because the legislative bodies were not in session to review his nomination.

The law of succession as a whole was upheld by the courts.

The court’s decision said Pierluisi had until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to leave office. Ahead of the decision, Pierluisi said that he would step aside and allow Vazquez to become governor if the courts decided in that manner.

The suit questioning the legitimacy of Pierluisi’s governorship was brought by the island’s Senate after he took the position after only having the confirmation from the House of Representatives.

Before stepping down as governor, Pierluisi released a video message, saying: “When I took office as governor this past Friday, I did so on the basis of the express language of the Constitution of Puerto Rico … I want to be clear that the only motivation I have had during this time, as always, has been the well-being of Puerto Rico.”

 Pierluisi also wished Vazquez well in her new role.

“This is a time for unity of purpose for the benefit of Puerto Rico, until our people have the opportunity to choose their future leaders in next year’s elections,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Terry Crews and 'Fast and Furious' series star Ludacris tapped to star in modern adaption of 'John Henry'

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ABC/Paula Lobo(LOS ANGELES) — Terry Crews has been tapped to put a modern twist on the classic African-American folk tale John Henry.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Saban Films has picked up the North American rights to a contemporary adaptation of John Henry that will star Crews and rapper-actor Ludacris.

In the original folk tale, Henry was a steel driver worker who was so strong that he was able to beat a steam-powered rock-drilling machine. Although he won, his victory was bittersweet: His heart gave out and he died as the competition ended.

But in the film, set in modern times, Crews will play John Henry as a man who leaves his “crime-riddled life for a peaceful one in Los Angeles.” But Henry soon encounters two immigrant kids who are on the run from a gang leader and Henry must help save them.

Crews’ John Henry film follows last October’s news that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was set to play the folk hero in a new Netflix film titled John Henry and the Statesman.

Although official details on The Rock’s film have yet to be revealed, he teased that the film would “highlight John’s “values, strength, morals and heart, all matter today more than ever.”

John Henry is set to hit theaters in the first quarter of 2020. Meanwhile, John Henry and the Statesman, directed by Jake Kasdan, does not yet have a release date.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

"Late Nights and Longnecks" and kittens: Justin Moore's daughters catch him in a lie

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The Valory Music Co. Justin Moore’s daughters Ella and Kennedy are now the proud owners of two kittens — even if their dad did have a pretty good excuse initially for why they couldn’t get one.

“He says he’s allergic to cats, but he’s just lying to us,” seven-year-old Kennedy tells People in an adorable video clip.

“It worked for years, until they debunked that theory,” Justin admits, adding ,“I’m just a dog person!”  

Since Justin and his family live in rural Arkansas, they’ve come up with a bit of a compromise: The kittens are living in the garage for now to protect them from predators, but they’ll eventually live outside.

Meanwhile, “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home,” the lead single from Justin’s new Late Nights and Longnecks album, is nearing the top of the chart.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Former Michigan State dean sentenced to prison for 'neglect of duty' in Larry Nassar abuse

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Bet_Noire/iStock(EAST LANSING, Mich.) — A former Michigan State University (MSU) dean has been sentenced for his role in not doing more to protect students from abuse by disgraced doctor Larry Nassar.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk sentenced William Strampel, 71, to a maximum of one year in prison on Wednesday after he was found guilty of criminal misconduct in office and two counts of willful neglect of duty.

“You’re guilty of two counts of neglect of duty for not properly overseeing Larry Nassar once you decided that you would be the one to do that,” Draganchuk said. “I am not prepared to say that 42 or 45 people suffered harm because of your actions. They suffered harm at the hand of Larry Nassar, but I am also not prepared to say that nobody suffered harm because of your actions.”

Strampel was the first MSU official to be convicted as part of the Michigan attorney general’s investigation into the school and its handling of Nassar, according to the Lansing State Journal. He had initially been charged in March 2018, after serving as dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine from 2002 to December 2017.

“Today’s sentencing sends a resoundingly clear message to public officials: If you brandish your power to demean, insult, harass, objectify, and abuse women, you will be held accountable,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “We appreciate the court’s decision and commitment to ensuring justice in this case was served. While Mr. Strampel’s sentence will never give back the years of pain and suffering his victims had to endure, the persistence of these courageous survivors made certain that he could no longer hide behind the title he once held to escape the reach of justice.”

In 2014, a student filed a Title IX complaint against Nassar, who was then working at the university in addition to his work with USA Gymnastics and other gymnastics programs. That investigation found no evidence of misconduct — a conclusion now known to be extremely incorrect, as dozens of women testified Nassar abused them, including at the university.

After the investigation, Nassar was ordered by the school to follow certain protocols while treating students, and Strampel was supposed to be supervising him, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors argued that Strampel failed to properly do so. Nassar was fired by MSU in September 2016.

The former dean was found guilty not just of neglect of duty for failing to adequately supervise Nassar, but also of criminal misconduct in office for sexually harassing female medical students. However, he was not found guilty of a second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, related to allegedly groping a student during a 2014 scholarship event, per the Lansing State Journal.

“They all came to you, not because they needed your friendship or they just thought you would be a good person to talk to, but they came to you because they needed your professional discretion and judgement in order to advance academically,” Draganchuk said Wednesday.

That Strampel would not give students a clear answer on if he thought they could cut it in medical school, the judge said, “tells us that you derived some sort of satisfaction using your position as the dean to manipulate and oppress these female students and that is more than sexual harassment, that’s more than inappropriate, that’s more than unfiltered locker room talk, that’s misconduct in office, a felony.”

Two other former MSU employees have been charged by the state attorney general’s office, including gymnastics coach Kathy Klages — for lying about her knowledge of complaints about Nassar — and former university president Lou Anna Simon — for lying to the police. Those cases are still ongoing. Nassar will spend the rest of his life imprisoned for molesting patients and possessing child pornography.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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