Utah man held without bail in deputy’s killing
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Utah man was held without bail Thursday on charges of murder in the deaths of an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and another man.
Rhett McKenzie Nelson, 30, of St. George, wore a navy blue jail uniform during his initial arraignment in Los Angeles Superior Court as the family of Deputy Joseph G. Solano and uniformed deputies with black mourning bands over the badges looked on.
Authorities accuse Nelson of committing a spate of crimes Monday. They say he fatally shot Dmitry Koltsov from his vehicle in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, attempted to kill Aleksandr Chudetckii, then fatally shot Solano inside a Jack in the Box in suburban Alhambra. Authorities also say he committed two armed robberies in Long Beach.
Separately, police in San Diego County are investigating if Nelson robbed five convenience stores with a handgun between June 7 and Sunday.
Nelson’s family says he suffers from mental illness and an opiate addiction. His family reported him missing last month when he left their Utah home with a firearm and said he wanted to “make it on his own or die,” according to St. George, Utah, police. His family told police they did not believe he was suicidal or a danger to others at the time.
Defense attorney Jenn Bartick was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Nelson is due back in court on July 22 for further arraignment. He did not enter a plea on Thursday before Judge Teresa Sullivan and quietly answered, “Yes, Your Honor,” when she asked him if he understood that his arraignment was being extended.
The case includes special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle and using a handgun in the commission of the crimes. Prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek life in prison or the death penalty if Nelson is convicted.
Solano’s family hugged each other as they filed out of the courtroom and were quickly shepherded into a back room by prosecutor Antonella Nistorescu.
A candlelight vigil will be held for Solano at the Jack in the Box where he was shot Thursday night, according to social media posts by San Gabriel City Councilwoman Denise Menchaca.
Utah man pleads not guilty to threatening US lawmaker
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah man pleaded not guilty Thursday to a charge of threatening to kill a member of Congress during thousands of phone calls to the U.S. Capitol.
Scott Brian Haven, 54, entered his plea to one count of interstate transmission of threats to injure during an arraignment in a federal courtroom in Salt Lake City. He is being held without bail after a judge previously determined he was a danger to the community.
His attorney Mark Moffat said that label doesn’t seem to fit with the man he has met or how Haven’s wife describes him. Moffat said Haven is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered insurance broker who has lived a crime-free life. Moffat said he’s trying to determine if Haven has any mental health issues or was going through some stressful life situation.
“There’s something gone on and we’re going to try and figure out: Did he make the calls and if he did, what was going on his life? Why were the calls made?”
State online records indicate he has no criminal history.
Haven spoke softly to answer the judge’s questions about whether he understood the proceedings, his hands and feet shackled. As a bailiff escorted Haven out of the courtroom a woman in the gallery said to him, “I love you,” and he repeated those words to her. She declined to comment or give her name outside court.
He was arrested June 4 in his hometown of Kaysville, Utah, about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Prosecutors accuse Haven of making more than 2,000 phone calls to Washington offices of unnamed U.S. representatives and senators from 2017-2019. They say Haven often complained about Democrats trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency and threatened to harm politicians.
In one call last month, he called the office of an unnamed U.S. representative and purported to be standing right behind him and ready to “shoot him in the head” because “the Russians want him taken out because he is trying to remove a duly elected President,” according to charging documents unsealed Wednesday.
Monolith defaced at Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) — Officials say vandals have etched an image of an eye onto a sandstone rock formation at Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park.
Park visitors reported the graffiti on the Temple of the Moon monolith in the remote Cathedral Valley on June 6.
Park officials say the etching is more than 2 feet wide and about 1 ½ feet tall.
Officials are determining if the graffiti can be removed or hidden.
Defacing national park structures is a federal crime punishable by jail time and fines.
Park law enforcement officers are investigating the vandalism.
Information on the crime can be called in or submitted on the National Park Service website.
Federal agency recommends firing WH aide Conway
WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking unprecedented action, a federal watchdog agency recommended Thursday that President Donald Trump fire one of his most ardent defenders, counselor Kellyanne Conway , for repeatedly violating a law that limits political activity by government workers.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which is unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, said in a letter to Trump that Conway has been a “repeat offender” of the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.
Federal law prohibits employees of the executive branch from using their official authority or influence to affect the result of an election. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are exempt from the Hatch Act, but there are no exceptions for White House employees.
The agency does not have the authority to fire Conway, who was appointed by Trump, so it would be up to the president to follow its recommendation and dismiss one of his most unwavering defenders. Conway is known for her fiery television appearances in support of the president and his policies. She helped him win election in 2016 as his campaign manager.
The recommendation to fire Conway is the first time the watchdog office has recommended the removal of a White House official over Hatch Act violations.
Special Counsel Henry Kerner’s letter to Trump states: “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”
Conway told reporters who encountered her in the White House press office, “I have no reaction.”
House committee subpoenas Flynn, Gates in Russia probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Thursday the committee is examining “deep counterintelligence concerns” raised in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and “requires speaking directly” with Flynn and Gates, who were important witnesses for Mueller’s investigation.
“The American people, and the Congress, deserve to hear directly from these two critical witnesses,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “We hope these witnesses come to recognize their cooperation as being with the United States, not merely the Department of Justice.”
The subpoena seeks documents and testimony from both men. Letters sent to their lawyers request that records be produced by June 26 and that they testify before the committee on July 10.
Flynn admitted lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States and awaits sentencing. He was supposed to have been sentenced last December, but midway through the hearing abruptly asked for it to be postponed so that he could continue cooperating with the Justice Department and earn additional credit toward a reduced sentence.
Schiff told reporters Thursday that “there are a whole host of issues that we want the opportunity to discuss.”
“We have not had that opportunity over the past couple of years because of their involvement in their own cases and now potentially ... in the cases involving others,” he added.
Schiff told reporters the committee is interested in Flynn’s discussions with former ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions imposed on Russia as well as his involvement in foreign business deals.
Asked if he thought Flynn and Gates would appear, Schiff said, “I would hope that they would consider it valuable as a part of their cooperation, to show the court that they are doing everything that they can to assist the United States government, that they will also assist the Congress.”
Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, said in an email to The Associated Press, “The General is continuing to cooperate with the government,” but she declined to comment on the subpoena. Gates’ lawyer did not immediately return an email message about the subpoena.
Powell, a former federal prosecutor who has been an outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation, was recently hired by Flynn after he fired his previous lawyers. The change may herald a shift in Flynn’s legal strategy in the final stages of his case.
Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and false statement charges related to Ukrainian lobbying and political consulting he did with ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who’s been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.