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Author: Mandy Nagy

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Mandy Nagy

Mandy Nagy (aka "Liberty Chick") was an investigative writer and researcher. She primarily covered the institutional left, protest movements, hacking and cybercrime, and technology. After suffering a serious stroke in September 2014, Mandy no longer was able to work at Legal Insurrection, but she's always on our minds and in our hearts. For more information, see here.

The Georgia father whose 22-month old son died after being left in a hot car earlier this summer was indicted Thursday and charged with murder. A grand jury indicted Justin Ross Harris on eight counts including malice murder, felony murder, and cruelty to children in the first and second degree. In addition, the indictment included counts of criminal attempt to commit a felony and dissemination of harmful material to minors, in relation to allegations that Harris had been exchanging sexually explicit messages with an underage girl. Justin Ross Harris has maintained that he forgot to drop off his son Cooper at day care on the morning of June 18th, and that he had not realized his son was still in the car as it sat in the parking lot where he worked. Cooper died that day after sitting in the car for several hours in high temperatures while still strapped in his car seat. At a probable cause hearing in July, the prosecution by contrast painted a portrait of a father who intentionally left his son in the car because he wanted to live a “child-free life,” referencing various online searches and viewing activity. Among that activity was alleged evidence of Harris having viewed articles posted in a “childfree” sub-forum of the popular internet site Reddit. Also referenced were allegations that Harris watched a public service announcement video about hot car deaths, and that both Harris and his wife had researched hot car deaths online. Cobb County, Georgia police Detective Phil Stoddard also testified during the July hearing that Harris was allegedly sexting with other women – including one who was underage at the time – in the weeks before and on the day of Cooper’s death.

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It was less than three weeks ago when Cobb County, Georgia police detective Phil Stoddard sat on the witness stand in the probable cause hearing in the case of Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia dad who stands accused of leaving his son to die in a hot car in June. Stoddard provided testimony at the July 3rd hearing that described Harris’ online activities, including details that Harris had viewed information about hot car deaths and visited a Reddit page devoted to child-free living. The detective also indicated that Harris had allegedly sexted with several women during the day as his son died. Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring told the judge during that hearing, “We plan to show he [Harris] wanted to lead a child-free life.” Also considered pertinent testimony from Stoddard during that hearing was the description of surveillance video from the parking lot of the Home Depot office where Harris worked. But an independent review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of that surveillance video and other evidence presented in the case shows some potential discrepancies in what had been described by detective Stoddard.

The remains of nearly 200 passengers from downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 have been removed from the wreckage and placed in refrigerated rail cars in a rebel-controlled area of eastern Ukraine. From ABC News:
It may be some time before the bodies of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 are returned to their families. In an exclusive interview with ABC News today, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic said they would not be turned over until international inspectors come here to inspect them. "We can and we want to give bodies to the relatives but experts have to examine the bodies here. That is international practice," Alexander Borodai said.

The mother of the toddler who died last month after being left in a hot car by his father says she is mourning the death of her child and asks that she be allowed to grieve privately, away from the eye of reporters. A statement earlier this week from the attorney representing Leanna Harris said the mother of 22-month old Cooper Harris “is living every parent's nightmare,” and also criticized the media for fostering a “poisonous atmosphere in which Leanna's every word, action and emotion - or failure to cry in front of a crowd -- is scrutinized for some supposed hidden meaning.” Harris hired Cobb County, Georgia defense attorney Lawrence Zimmerman last week, though she has not been charged in the case and has not been named as a suspect. Zimmerman compared Leanna Harris’ situation to that of Richard Jewell, the man who was working as a temporary security guard during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing and was wrongly implicated as a suspect then later cleared. It was Jewell who had spotted the bag that contained the bomb, then moved visitors away from the area and alerted authorities. But Jewell had become the subject of intense media focus throughout the ordeal. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on Thursday that Harris and her attorney have also asked to meet with Lin Wood, the attorney who represented Jewell in his subsequent libel cases against several media outlets.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing next Tuesday for Obama’s nomination for Veterans’ Affairs Secretary. From Politico:
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a nomination hearing next week for Robert McDonald, the White House’s choice to lead the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.,) the committee chairman, said his panel will hold a confirmation hearing on July 22 for McDonald. “At a time when we have unacceptably long waiting times for VA health care and when some 500,000 veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, it is absolutely imperative that the VA move to provide quality care in a timely manner to all of our veterans,” Sanders said.
McDonald was identified late last month as Obama’s pick to run the troubled agency. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in the top two percent of his class and served in the Army for five years, according to the Washington Post. McDonald was also a former CEO for Procter and Gamble, where he faced some challenges of his own. But many seem to be hoping that McDonald’s combination of military service and corporate experience will be the right mix to help fix some of the issues facing the VA. And those issues are plenty, as recent audits have revealed the secretive waiting lists in VA facilities that were intended to conceal actual waiting times, and reports have detailed the numerous veterans waiting months for their first appointments or not getting appointments at all.

Testimony from the VA Office of Inspector General released ahead of a House committee hearing on Monday indicates that the agency is still facing challenges in reducing a backlog of disability claims. From The Hill:
Despite claims by the Veterans Affairs Department that it has made significant progress in reducing its enormous disability claims backlog, the agency’s internal watchdog says the handling of such requests remains troubled. The VA Office of Inspector General found that thousands of cases were subtracted from the VA case log even though people were still working on them, according to testimony that will be provided to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee at a hearing on Monday night. Investigators also discovered that the VA did not follow up with veterans who were granted temporary 100 percent disability payments. The VA was supposed to follow up to see if their health had improved. Because it didn’t, the VA has overpaid veterans about $85 million since 2012, and could potentially over-pay another $370 million in the next five years. The agency’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the office responsible for providing various kinds of monetary compensation to those who served in uniform, “continues to face challenges to ensure veterans receive timely and accurately [sic] benefits and services,” Linda Halliday, an assistant inspector general at the department, will say in testimony to the panel.
This comes of course as the VA is already under fire after a recent audit revealed long wait times for many veterans’ first appointments with a VA facility, while even more veterans who enrolled never received appointments at all. And a previous review found that the practice of secret waiting lists to hide actual wait times was a problem that was systemic across the VA network of facilities.

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The case against Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia dad who stands accused of leaving his 22-month old son to die in a hot car, has captured the attention of the media and the public since more details were revealed in a probable cause hearing late last week. New documents released on Monday provide additional insight into where the investigation may be focused. From USA Today:
A new series of search warrants in the case of a 22-month-old Georgia boy who died while in a hot car last month show a focus on the electronic trail leading up to his death. The warrants made public by the Magistrate Court of Cobb County on Monday morning show Cobb County Police investigators looking into electronic devices found inside Justin Ross Harris' 2011 Hyundai Tuscan. A thumb drive, an external hard drive, a SD card, and a DVD-R were all taken into police custody. According to the warrants, all of the items will be searched for "information pertaining to finances, credit card debt, business information, life insurance, emails/communication regarding child, wife, and family issues, photos/videos of the child to show development, information about car seat searches, searches regarding car deaths, communications with other people on the days leading up to and the incident date, information on life insurance policies."
What initially seemed to be a case in which many could conceivably believe it was a tragic accident took a different turn last week and has expanded into a digital expedition of online searches, videos and tawdry text messages. It was during the probable cause hearing last Thursday that the public learned 33-year old Ross Harris was allegedly sexting with other women - including one who was underage at the time, as his son sat in a sweltering hot car, according to the testimony of Cobb County, Georgia, police Detective Phil Stoddard.

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The Syrian Electronic Army claimed credit Thursday for hijacking the Twitter account of the Israel Defense Forces then posting false information from the account. The incident spurred a flurry of confusion and concern after one of the tweets, posted from the hijacked @IDFSpokesperson account, falsely claimed that a rocket attack on a nuclear facility caused a “possible nuclear leak.” No such attack or leak occurred. SEA-IDF-tweet1 Another tweet displayed this pro-Palestinian message. (The tweets have since been deleted but have been saved in screen shots online).

The New York Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that a local law intended to protect children from cyberbullying violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment because it was too broad. From the Wall Street Journal:
New York's top court struck down a law that made cyberbullying a crime, in what had been viewed as a test case of recent state and local statutes that target online speech. The New York Court of Appeals, in a 5-2 ruling, held on Tuesday that the 2010 Albany County law prohibited a vast swath of speech "far beyond the cyberbullying of children," in violation of the First Amendment. The court's ruling could stand as a guidepost for other state high courts hearing challenges to such laws, as well as for states and localities considering criminal penalties for cyberbullying, legal experts said. Besides Albany, four other New York counties and more than a dozen states, including Louisiana and North Carolina, have similar laws.
The 2010 law defined cyberbullying against “any minor or person” to mean “any act of communicating or causing a communication to be sent by mechanical or electronic means, including posting statements on the internet or through a computer or email network, disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs; disseminating private, personal, false or sexual information, or sending hate mail, with no legitimate private, personal, or public purpose, with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person.” Writing for the majority, Judge Victoria Graffeo said, in part, “…it appears that the provision would criminalize a broad spectrum of speech outside the popular understanding of cyberbullying, including, for example: an email disclosing private information about a corporation or a telephone conversation meant to annoy an adult.”