Colorado ‘Psychic Kay’ killer files murder case appeal

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‘Psychic Kay’ killer files appeal claiming attorneys failed to inform him of plea offer


Sady Swanson


Fort Collins Coloradoan
Published 11:25 PM EST Jan 31, 2020
John Marks Jr. (right) is serving 48 years to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of murdering his wife of 20 years, Kathy Adams, 57, in 2010.
Fort Collins Coloradoan archive

The man sentenced to prison for the murder of the 57-year-old Fort Collins woman known as “Psychic Kay” has filed an appeal claiming his attorneys failed to properly advise him of potential plea agreements.

John Marks Jr., now 57, was found guilty of second-degree murder and sexual assault in the 2010 death of his wife, Kathy Adams, known as “Psychic Kay.” He was sentenced to 48 years to life in 2012 and is currently serving his sentence at the Fremont Correctional Facility in Canon City. 

Adams’ body was recovered from a ravine off U.S. Highway 36 near the Boulder-Larimer County line in October 2010, according to Coloradoan archives. Marks was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder about two weeks after her body was found. Initial arrest documents indicated that Marks was abusive and Adams had planned to escape to Atlanta and live with family before she was killed.

Marks pleaded not guilty in his initial case and has maintained his innocence, according to his previous defense attorney. 

Online court records indicate documents were filed to reopen the case in 2015, and the first petition was filed May 2017. The appeal was filed under Colorado criminal procedure that allows for a request for post-conviction relief if attorneys provided ineffective counsel during a criminal case. If approved, the judge could order a new trial or a modified sentence. 

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On Friday afternoon, Marks appeared in a Larimer County courtroom, where his attorney argued to 20th Judicial District Judge Nancy Salomone that Marks’ criminal defense attorneys failed to properly inform him of an offered plea agreement during his 2012 trial.

During Friday’s hearing, the defense attorneys and prosecutors from the 2012 trial denied the assertion that a midtrial plea offer — or that any formal plea offer — was made in the case. 

Defense attorney Derek Samuelson was appointed to be Marks’ attorney about a year into the case — in fall 2011 — after the public defender’s office removed themselves due to a conflict of interest, Samuelson testified Friday. 

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After his appointment, Samuelson said he reached out to now Second Assistant District Attorney Emily Humphrey, the lead prosecutor on Marks’ case, to suggest a potential plea offer of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder. Humphrey refused the suggestion, Samuelson said.

Shortly after that exchange, Samuelson said he met Humphrey and now Larimer County District Attorney Cliff Riedel, Humphrey’s supervisor at the time, at a coffee shop in September 2011 to discuss the potential for a plea offer.

An email sent after that meeting from Samuelson to another defense attorney assisting with the case — Lisabeth Castle — said the district attorney suggested they may be open to an offer involving Marks’ pleading guilty to second-degree murder in a heat of passion, which could have led to a lesser sentence.

The discussion was not an official offer, Samuelson said.

Per the district attorney’s office policy, according to testimony by Humphrey and Riedel on Friday, to minimize harm to the victims or the family in a sexual assault or murder case, prosecutors might tell a defense attorney what they might consider a fair plea offer first. Then, if the defendant comes back with interest in taking a plea offer similar to what they discussed, that’s when the prosecution would bring the idea of a plea agreement to the victim or the victim’s family, not before that point. 

“There was absolutely no formal offer made to (Samuelson),” Humphrey testified Friday.

After having the initial discussion with Humphrey and Riedel, Samuelson said he went to the Larimer County Jail to speak with Marks. Because pleading guilty to second-degree murder in a heat of passion would still likely mean decades in prison, Samuelson said Marks declined to move further with it.

“What he told me was motivating him was innocence,” Samuelson said.

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Castle also testified that no midtrial offer was conveyed to her, and she was not aware of one being conveyed to Samuelson or directly to Marks. 

“And (if we did receive a midtrial offer) I think that’s something we would’ve encouraged him to take,” Castle testified.

The appeal hearing was initially scheduled to finish Friday afternoon, but attorneys and the judge agreed that a second day of testimony is necessary. Because of scheduling conflicts, a date for the second day of the hearing has not yet been scheduled. 

Samuelson, who was not able to finish testifying Friday afternoon, will resume his testimony at that hearing.

Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.

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Fake Church Brutally Kill Pregnant Woman, 5 Children For Refusing To Repent Of Their Sins

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All

In what was described as a spiritual exercise to make people repent of their sins, a pregnant woman, her five children, and one other person have been brutally killed in Panama.

10 lay preachers were said to have picked up the victims, who hail from the Ngabe Bugle indigenous group, tortured, beat, burned and hacked with machetes to make them “repent for their sins”.

Three of the villagers who managed to escape reported to the police, who on getting there were able to rescue 14 others, who had been tied up and beaten with wooden clubs and Bibles at the improvised church called The New Light Of God.

Some of the investigators at the scene said they found a naked woman inside the building, along with machetes, knives and a goat that had been ritually sacrificed.

The further noted that the presence of Two pregnant women and several children who had been severely injured.

Prosecutor Rafael Baloyes said: “They were performing a ritual inside the structure. In that ritual, there were people being held against their will, being mistreated.

“All of these rites were aimed at killing them if they did not repent their sins.”

The police said a mile away, they discovered the bodies of one adult and six children in a grave

They further disclosed that one of the suspects is the grand father to the children.

“They searched this family out to hold a ritual and they massacred them, mistreated them, killed practically the whole family,” Mr. Baloyes said.

Local leaders described the sect as “satanic” and have called for it to be eradicated immediately.

According to them, the New Light Of God movement started only three months ago, and on Saturday, a member of the sect’s said he has received a message from God which told him that its either everyone repents or they die.

Police have arrested ten members of the church on suspicion of being responsible for the killings.

See photos of the place:

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Four remanded over destruction of Sotitobire church

By Damisi Ojo, Akure

Another four young men have been remanded at Olokuta Correctional Service Centre by a Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Akure over alleged murder, arson, malicious damage and stealing at Sotitobire Church in Akure, the Ondo State capital.

They are: Yusuf Owa, 27, Adebayo Adeyemi, 22, Adeleye Omowumi, 28, and Adu Babatunde, 27.

The accused were fresh suspects to be remanded in prison as 14 persons were earlier remanded in connection with the crisis, making the total number of 18 suspects at Olokuta Correctional Service centre.

The accused persons are facing a six -count-charge of felony, conspiracy, murder, arson and stealing.

According to the charge sheet, they committed the offence on December 18, 2019 at about 9:45am at Sotitobire Church, Oshinle, Akure, in the Akure Magisterial District.

The alleged offences were said to be contrary to sections 383 and punishable under sections 324, 516,319(1), 443(a), 451 and 390(a).

The defendants were alleged to have killed one Sergeant Sheidu Ocheopo (m) by smashing him to death with tyre rim and stones at Sotitobire Church, Oshinle, while performing his lawful duty.

They were also accused of setting ablaze Sotitobire Church Oshinle and Ajipowo branches, including Police Hilux patrol vehicle, AK47 rifle with breach No, 4777 and some vehicles belonging to individuals valued at N2 millions.

Other items that were set ablaze, according to the charge were; Toyota Siena, Range rover Jeep, Toyota venza, Toyota Camry and Lexus car valued at N250 million, belonging to Alfa Babatunde Olumoyo.

Also some church items like rug, amplifier, fans, and other valuables in the church, valued at N600,000 were said to have been stolen.

READ ALSO: 13 remanded over attack on Sotitobire church

The Prosecuting Police Officer, Inspector Uloh Goodluck, informed the court of his intention to move a motion on notice for the remands of the defendants at Olokuta, Correctional Service Centre.

Counsel representing the first defendant, Mr. M.O Ojo, and counsel to third and fourth defendants, Mr. Afe Felix, opposed the moving of the motion, drew the attention of the court to the fact that the motion before it was just serve in the court, adding that they need some time to file their counter affidavit.

While the counsel representing the second defendant Mr. John Olowookere, did not oppose to the prosecutor moving his motion for remand.

The Magistrate, Mrs. Charity Adeyanju, ordered that the defendants be kept at Olokuta Correctional Service Centre, pending when the move of motion on notice for the remand of the defendants.

She adjourned the case till January 20, 2020.

The Sotitobire Church Founder, Alfa Babatunde is expected to appear in court on Thursday for the hearing of his case of alleged kidnapping of one year old boy, Gold Kolawole, who got missing in his church in November 2019.

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Son stabs father to death, lands in trouble in Lagos — Daily Times Nigeria

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A man identified as Nelson has been arraigned before the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja for stabbing his father, Sunday Oamen, to death with a broken bottle.

Patience Oamen, a hairdresser, on Tuesday told the court how his brother stabbed their father.

The suspect is facing one count of murder contrary to Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011, before Justice Hakeem Oshodi.

The Prosecutor, M. T. Adewoye, told the court that Nelson was 33-year-old when he committed the offence on September 18, 2015, at their residence, Block 272, Flat 4, Abesan Estate, Lagos State.

Patience while speaking in the court noted that though Nelson had a good relationship with their father the relationship went sour because their father denied Nelson money on Sunday.

The hairdresser further stated that his brother’s clothes had bloodstain on it on the day of the incident before he ran out of the house.

Patience said, “On the day of the incident, our mother, who sells foodstuffs, was downstairs with me and between noon and 1 p.m., while we were still downstairs, I saw my brother hurriedly coming downstairs with his clothes stained with blood. I called his name but he ran away.”

“The door to the house was locked and I was wondering how he opened the door. I took the keys, opened the door and saw a pool of blood and immediately ran downstairs to call our mother and we both ran upstairs to check on our father and noticed that he had been stabbed.

“He had been stabbed all over his stomach and neck with a broken bottle.”

“We reported the case to the police and three days later, Nelson came to the police station to confess that he stabbed our father to death.”

Patience further stated that Nelson smokes Indian hemp and had once stolen the prepaid meter in the house.

Patience, while being cross-examined by the defence counsel, E. B. Ogogo, reiterated that though she was not in the room when the incident happened, she knew that her brother committed the crime because his clothes were stained with blood.

She added, “I saw him that day but I forgot to put it down in my statement. I was not myself that day because of the shock; that was why I did not remember to write it in my statement.”

“My brother said our father’s spirit was haunting him and that was why he went to the police station to confess.”

The case was adjourned 

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MISSING BOY: Church deserted, family reveals how General Overseer lives in prison

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AdeyanjuBy Dayo Johnson, Akure

ALL the branches of Sotitobire Miracle Centre across Ondo State have been deserted after the razing of its headquarters and the General Overseer, Prophet Babatunde Alfa, remanded at the Olokuta Correctional Centre, Akure after one-year-old Gold Kolawole went missing at the headquarters branch over a month ago.

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Uncertainty reigned over the church.

Reports said members may have been ‘defecting’ to other churches as the General Overseer spent Christmas and the New Year day in prison.

Many of the members with church stickers on their vehicles and bands on their wrists, it was learnt, have been removing them.

Irate youths had set the headquarters branch ablaze and went further to burn down the Ajipowo branch same day to show their displeasure over the missing boy’s case.

The development forced the police to deploy to the razed churches and the private residence of the clergyman after it was equally attacked and several vehicles damaged.

While the Department of State Service, DSS, which arrested Alfa, took the glory for doing something over the missing boy’s case, the police, which was accused of foot-dragging, arraigned 13 suspected arsonists in court in connection with the razed churches.

Prison walk

Then the DSS, in a surprise move, arraigned the clergyman in the Magistrate Court.

The court was jam-packed on arraignment day as members of the church trooped out to give their prophet moral support.

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Their hope that Alfa would be granted bail was, however, dashed.

Even the prophet, who was expecting that he would be released on bail, burst into tears as Magistrate Charity Adeyanju ordered that he be remanded in prison custody.

His church members also could not hold their tears as they wept profusely seeing their prophet being pushed into the Black Maria by prison wardens.

It was a pitiable sight as the church members and the clergyman wept like a baby.

While arraigning the General Overseer and six children teachers of Sotitobire Miracle Centre in court, the DSS accused them of conspiracy to kidnap and aiding kidnapping of Gold during a Sunday service at the headquarters of the church in Oshinle area of the state capital on November 10.

The six children teachers are Omodara Olayinka, Margaret Oyebola, Grace Ogunjobi, Egunjobi Motunrayo, Esther Kayode and Peter Anjorin.

Peter Anjorin was separately accused by the prosecutor of destroying evidence by secretly taking away evidence that would have aided speedy investigation of the missing child.

The charge against anjorin read, “That on the 10th day of December 2019 at about 2:00 pm at the premises of the Department of State Service, Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo State in the Akure Magisterial District, you did destroy evidence by secretly taking away vital evidence that would have aided speedy investigation in respect of the missing child (Gold Eninlaloluwa Kolawole) and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 123 of Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol. I Laws of Ondo State 2006.”

The accused persons were brought to the court by operatives of the DSS around 9am in a white bus marked AKR – 54-AM.

The prosecutor, Joseph Dada, said the offence was contrary to and punishable under Section 5(i) of the Ondo State Anti-Kidnapping and Anti-Abduction Law, 2010 as well as under Section 516 of Criminal Code, Cap 37, Volume I Laws of Ondo State 2006.

The charge sheet for all the suspects read, “That you Prophet Alfa Babatunde ’m’, Omodara Olayinka ’f’, Margaret Oyebola ‘f’, Grace Ogunjobi ‘f’, Egunjobi Motunrayo ’f’, Esther Kayode ’f’, Peter Anjorin ‘m’ and others now at large, on the 10th day of November 2019 at about 11:45 am at Sotitobire Praising Chapel, No. 48, Solagbade Street, Oshinle Quarters, Akure, Ondo State in the Akure Magisterial District, did conspire together to commit felony to wit: Kidnapping, and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 516 of Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol. I Laws of Ondo State 2006″.

Trial Magistrate Adeyanju, after listening to the arguments of the prosecutor and counsel to the defendants, Olusola Oke, ruled that she did not have the jurisdiction to try the alleged offences.

She then said that the accused persons be remanded in prison custody pending the conclusion of investigation and arraignment at the High Court and adjourned the case till January 17, 2020.

Recall that the mother of the missing boy, Modupe Kolawole, had taken him to the church while looking for miracle but ended up losing him to suspected kidnappers.

Modupe said she dropped the son at the church children section only to come back to discover that he had disappeared without trace since November 10.

Speaking after the court session, Oke said, “The prosecution presented two contradictory positions. There was an application filed where they alleged that the General Overseer confessed to the allegation of kidnapping.

“We challenged them to present the evidence of his confession but they did not bring something like that to court.

“Also, contrary to what we heard in the public domain about kidnapping, they were charged with conspiracy and aiding kidnapping. These are two different situations because if he actually kidnapped, it would be brought to the public that he kidnapped but apparently they have nothing against him.

“We believe that if the man indeed is culpable, he should be punished. But at the same time, there is no need to crucify somebody who has done no wrong.”

Also, 13 suspected persons were ordered to be remanded at the Olokuta Correctional Center by an Akure Magistrate’s Court for their alleged involvement in the killing of a policeman and the razing of Sotitobire Miracle Centre.

They were arraigned on six count charges of murder, arson, theft and vandalism.

The prosecutor, ASP Moses Adeosun, prayed that the defendants be remanded in prison pending investigation into the matter.

Ooni intervention

In a related development, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, and his Olori, Naomi, are reported to have waded into the case of the missing boy.

The mother of the boy confirmed this to Sunday Vanguard.

“It is true that the Kabiyesi, the Ooni of Ife, and the wife invited us to the palace in lfe”, Modupe Kolawole said.

“We briefed the Kabiyesi and the Olori on how the incident happened over a month ago. “They sympathized with us and promised to get back to us”.

Hunger strike

Meanwhile, family sources said the embattled clergyman has turned the Olokuta Correctional Centre to a crusade ground and reportedly winning souls for Christ in the prison.

The sources said Alfa organised programmes for the prison inmates during Christmas and New Year day, thereby leading many of them to Christ.

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They denied a report that the prophet took ill following alleged hunger strike.

The post MISSING BOY: Church deserted, family reveals how General Overseer lives in prison appeared first on Vanguard News.

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Missing Boy: Court remands 13 suspects over burning of church in Ondo

The Magistrate Court sitting in Akure, Ondo State capital, has ordered the remand of 13 people to Olokuta Correctional Center, over their alleged involvement in the killing of a policeman and setting ablaze of Sotitobire Miracle Centre.

The accused who were dragged before Magistrate Charity Adeyanju, on a six-count charge bothering on murder, arson, theft, and vandalism.

The Police Prosecutor, ASP Moses Adeosun, prayed the court to remand the accused at the Olokuta Correctional Centre pending the ongoing investigation into the matter.

Reading the charge sheet read in part, he said “that you Udeme Eyo ‘m’, Ikechukwu Njoku ‘m’, Ayodimeji Jimoh ‘m’, Bamisaye Ojo ‘m’, Balogun Ayomide ‘m’, ‘Steve Adekunle ‘m’, Agbi Sesan ‘m’, Stephen Omotosho ‘m’, Omogbolahan James ‘m’, Ademola Aderibigbe ‘m’, Oluwadare Rotimi, ‘m’, Ayo Ifedayo ‘m’, Samuel Shitu and others at large, on 18/12/2019, at about 9.45 am, Sotitobire church, Oshinle, Akure, in the Ondo State Magisterial District, did conspire together to commit felony to wit: murder, arson, malicious damage and stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 324 & 516 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol.1, LAWS of Ondo State of Nigeria 2006 respectively.

“That you Udeme Eyo ‘m’, Ikechukwu Njoku ‘m’, Ayo Dimeji Jiomoh ‘m’, Bamisaye Samson Ojo ‘m’, Balogun Ayorinde ‘m’, Steve Adekunle ‘m’, Agbi Sesan ‘m’, Stephen Omotosho ‘m’, Omogbolahan James ‘m’, Ademola Aderibigbe ‘m’, Oluwadare Rotimi ‘m’, Ayo Ifedayo ‘m’, Samuel Shitu and others at large, on same date, time committed the offence In the aforementioned Magisterial District, did unlawfully kill Sgt Sheidu by smashing him to death with tyre ream and stones at Sotitobire church, Oshile, Akure while performing his lawful duty and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 319(1) of Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol.1 Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria 2006.”

However, the Counsel to the defendants objected to the prayer of the prosecutor counsel, arguing on the need for his clients to be granted bail.

He told the court that the prosecution had a lot of defects and said that “In order for them to put their house in order, they had to come back another day with the application to remand them as the Magistrate Court lacks jurisdiction to prosecute the offences charged.

Following the arguments of the prosecutor and the Defence Counsel, the defendants were subsequently remanded with the trial adjourned till January 3, 2020.

It will be recalled that on some angry youths attacked the church which belongs to Prophet Alfa Babatunde who was alleged of being behind the mysterious disappearance of a one-year-old baby, Gold Kolawole.

The enraged youth during the attack burnt down the church as well as the vehicles of church members after which they proceeded to the Prophet’s residence where they allegedly looted valuables.

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Saudi Court Sentences Five To Death For Murder Of Jamal Khashoggi

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A court in Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi Palace, was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul by a team of Saudi agents.

The Saudi authorities said it was the result of a “rogue operation” and put 11 unnamed individuals on trial.

The Riyadh Criminal Court sentenced five individuals to death for “committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim”, according to the public prosecution’s statement.

Three others were handed prison sentences totalling 24 years for “covering up this crime and violating the law”, while the remaining three were found not guilty.

The 59-year-old journalist, a US-based columnist for the Washington Post, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Khashoggi, however, never came out alive to meet Cengiz, and his body was mutilated and deposed off to a local Turkish collaborator, according to the Saudi account.

According to a statement by the Saudi public prosecutor, a total of 31 individuals were investigated over the killing and 21 of them were arrested. Eleven were eventually referred to trial at the Riyadh Criminal Court and the public prosecutor sought the death penalty for five of them.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, had in June claimed that the five people facing the death penalty were Fahad Shabib Albalawi; Turki Muserref Alshehri; Waleed Abdullah Alshehri; Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, an intelligence officer; and Dr Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, a forensic doctor with the interior ministry.

However, Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to the Crown Prince, who was sacked and investigated over the killing, and Ahmad Asiri, a former Deputy Intelligence Chief, were not charged for the murder. they were both seen by the international community as the brains behind the killing of Khashoggi.

Also not convicted was the Crown Prince, who human right groups and advocates said “definitely” issued the instruction to his subordinates to kill the outspoken journalist.

The prince denied any involvement, but in October he said he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.

Shalaan Shalaan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor, at a press conference on Monday said the public prosecution’s investigations had shown that “there was no premeditation to kill at the beginning of the mission”.

“The investigation showed that the killing was not premeditated… The killing was in the spur of the moment, when the head of the negotiating team inspected the premises of the consulate and realised that it was impossible to move the victim to a safe place to resume negotiations.

“The head of the negotiating team and the perpetrators then discussed and agreed to kill the victim inside the consulate,” he said.

But Callamard, who authored a UN-backed report in June which stated that Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince were responsible for the murder, said in a post on Twitter that the investigation and trial lacked credibility.

“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial,” her tweet read.

Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, described the Saudi verdict as  “not acceptable”.

Human Rights Watch said the trial, which took place behind closed doors, did not meet international standards and that the Saudi authorities had “obstructed meaningful accountability”.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the decision of the Saudi court was “far from meeting the expectations of both our country and the international community to shed light on the murder with all its dimensions and deliver justice”.

The public prosecution said it would decide whether to review the court’s rulings and decide whether to appeal. The death sentences must be upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

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Saudi sentences five to death, three to jail over Khashoggi killing

Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death and three more to jail terms, totalling 24 years, over the killing of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul in October last year.

Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor and spokesman, Shalaan al-Shalaan, reading out the verdict in the trial, said the court dismissed charges against the remaining three of the 11 people that had been on trial, finding them not guilty.

Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

He was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to receive papers ahead of his wedding.

His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.

The killing caused a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince’s image.

The CIA and some Western governments have said they believe Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, but Saudi officials say he had no role.

Eleven Saudi suspects were put on trial over his death in secretive proceedings in Riyadh.

In the investigation into the murder, 21 were arrested and 10 were called in for questioning without arrest, Shalaan said.

Riyadh’s criminal court pronounced the death penalty on five individuals, whose names have not yet been released, “for committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim’’.

READ ALSO: Khashoggi memorial to be held outside Saudi consulate

The three sentenced to prison were given various sentences totalling 24 years “for their role in covering up this crime and violating the law’’.

Shalaan added that the investigations proved there was no “prior enmity” between those convicted and Khashoggi.

The verdicts can still be appealed.

Last November, the Saudi prosecutor said that Saud al-Qahtani, a former high-profile Saudi royal adviser, discussed Khashoggi’s activities before he entered the Saudi consulate with the team that went on to kill him.

The prosecutor said Qahtani acted in coordination with Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmed al-Asiri, who he said, had ordered Khashoggi’s repatriation from Turkey and that the lead negotiator on the ground then decided to kill him.

Both men were dismissed from their positions but while Asiri went on trial, Qahtani did not.

On Monday Shalaan said Asiri has been released due to insufficient evidence and Qahtani had been investigated but was not charged and had been released.

Reuters/NAN)

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13 remanded over attack on Sotitobire church

By Damisi Ojo, Akure

Thirteen persons were on Tuesday remanded at the Olokuta Correctional Centre by an Akure Magistrates’ Court for their alleged involvement in the killing of a policeman as well as the razing of Sotitobire Miracle Centre.

The accused persons who appeared before Magistrate Charity Adeyanju were arraigned on six-count charges bothering on murder, arson, theft and vandalism.

On December 18, some angry youths attacked the church which belongs to Prophet Alfa Babatunde who was alleged of being behind the mysterious disappearance of a one-year-old baby, Gold Kolawole.

The enraged youths, during the attack, burnt down the church as well as the vehicles of members after which they proceeded to the Prophet’s residence where they allegedly looted valuables.

Addressing the court, the Police Prosecutor, ASP Moses Adeosun prayed that the defendants be remanded at the Olokuta Correctional Centre pending the ongoing investigation into the matter.

The charge sheet reads: “That you Udeme Eyo ‘m’, Ikechukwu Njoku ‘m’, Ayodimeji Jimoh ‘m’, Bamisaye Ojo ‘m’, Balogun Ayomide ‘m’, ‘Steve Adekunle ‘m’, Agbi Sesan ‘m’, Stephen Omotosho ‘m’, Omogbolahan James ‘m’, Ademola Aderibigbe ‘m’, Oluwadare Rotimi, ‘m’, Ayo Ifedayo ‘m’, Samuel Shitu and others at large, on 18/12/2019, at about 9.45 am, Sotitobire church, Oshinle, Akure, in the Ondo State Magisterial District, did conspire together to commit felony to wit: murder, arson, malicious damage and stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 324 & 516 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol.1, LAWS of Ondo State of Nigeria 2006 respectively.

Read Also; Ondo cleric remanded over missing baby

“That you Udeme Eyo ‘m’, Ikechukwu Njoku ‘m’, Ayo dimeji Jiomoh ‘m’, Bamisaye Samson Ojo ‘m’, Balogun Ayorinde ‘m’, Steve Adekunle ‘m’, Agbi Sesan ‘m’, Stephen Omotosho ‘m’, Omogbolahan James ‘m’, Ademola Aderibigbe ‘m’, Oluwadare Rotimi ‘m’, Ayo Ifedayo ‘m’, Samuel Shitu and others at large, on same date, time committed the offence In the aforementioned Magisterial District, did unlawfully kill Sgt Sheidu by smashing him to death with tyre ream and stones at Sotitobire church, Oshinle, Akure while performing his lawful duty and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 319(1) of Criminal Code, Cap 37, Vol.1 Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria 2006.”

Following the arguments of the prosecutor and the Defence Counsel, the defendants were subsequently remanded with the trial adjourned till January 3, 2020.

The Counsel to the Defendants, Femi Saliu, who had argued on the need for his clients to be granted bail, told reporters after the court sitting that the prosecution had a lot of defects.

He stressed: “In order for them to put their house in order, they had to come back another day with the application to remand them as the Magistrate Court lacks jurisdiction to prosecute the offences charged. I think for their own safety, looking at the circumstances, they were remanded in prison custody.”

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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